• White Paper-VTI: Data Acquisition and Functional Test

    When KTC has to secure a large perimeter or build and deliver systems which incorporate large complex units or units with subsystems which – if handled improperly or allowed to operate off spec – can injure or kill people (such as very high power x-ray systems), we must instrument the perimeter, the complex unit or the subsystems so that we can monitor, continuously, all aspects of the perimeter or unit. To do that we must employ proven data acquisition (DAQ) systems. Systems which track movement, temperatures and pressures, state-of-health of the instrumentation itself and so on. KTC searched various systems and vendors to find the team which provides the DAQ we need. We chose VTI Instruments and have used their approach to VLSI/XLSI in our work. We asked them to explain their approach and they created a two-part response. Let them explain….

    Part One: Data Acquisition and VTI
    Qualification and performance testing is rigorous and unforgiving. Retests are expensive in both time and money. More often, they’re not even feasible. Test data must be captured correctly the first time. Thus, the reliability of the data acquisition system, the accuracy of the measurements, and integrity of the data must be faultless for each and every test. The risk is too high to compromise on the test instruments. That’s why, for decades, customers worldwide have relied on VTI Instruments, because they are guaranteed RELIABLE DATA, FIRST TIME, EVERY TIME.

    Our recently expanded SentinelEX Integrated Data Acquisition family leverages the LXI and PXIe standards. LXI (co-founded by VTI) is the largest instrumentation standard for rack mount programmable instruments, whereas PXIe is the new modular card standard based on the PCI Express bus. Combining the power of both of these standards allows the SentinelEX family to scale from a handful to thousands of channels of mixed DAQ and satisfy applications from low-speed temperature to high-speed NVH within one family.

    The most significant investment of any data acquisition project resides in the system software. VTI’s commitment to delivering open architecture solutions extends to software utilities and tools that reduce development time while allowing the flexibility to choose the application development environment. While our instruments are compatible with standard programming environments, our turn-key software programs, designed by experienced test engineers, are designed to accelerate test setup and simplify data acquisition, monitoring, and analysis. These programming-free environments feature intuitive GUIs and provide auto instrument discovery and facilitate easy channel configuration. Data display formats are user-selectable for optimum visualization of test parameters. All of this means that one can be acquiring, displaying, and recording data within minutes of connecting sensors to the acquisition hardware. The EMX Series, our latest addition to the SentinelEX family, incorporates a RESTful HTTP protocol which allows instrument control using a standard HTTP interface. In addition to IVI drivers which allow application programming in a wide variety of development environments like LabVIEW, C/C++, C#, Visual Basic and so on, the RESTful HTTP implementation allows the use of popular web programming languages like Java, PHP, Python, Ruby, and Perl. This expands the capabilities of the device by allowing users to easily develop web applications around the data acquisition system, enabling truly remote capabilities. In addition, the RESTful HTTP interface transforms the mainframe into a cloud service that can be integrated with other cloud services like cloud databases and cloud computing services. For example, acquired data can be streamed to cloud services like Amazon EC2™ or Microsoft Azure™ where virtually unlimited processing power is available for data processing and analysis, and data can be shared in a secured manner with any web enabled device worldwide.

    Thus SentinelEX allows our customers to optimize their capital investment through product longevity while ensuring unmatched measurement integrity and data reliability.

    Part Two: Functional Test and VTI
    Functional test is used to ensure that a product is performing as intended by its manufacturer against its published specifications. It is a broad application space covering virtually every market segment, and the complexity of a test is often driven by the cost and complexity of the product to be tested. For example, a missile guidance control unit (GCU) will require a more rigorous and time-consuming test than a relay board used in the telecommunications industry.

    Constructing an automated test system is attractive because it can decrease overall test time and thus enable faster time to market while also reducing the element of human error. Though mostly overlooked, at the heart of any automated test system lays the switch system, which connects everything together. At VTI, we view signal switching subsystems as a precision instrument and not just a collection of relays on a card. The quality of a switch is not determined by what it does, rather by what it doesn’t do; the ideal switch instruments transmit signals exactly as they come in, without attenuating, adding noise, or reducing signal integrity in any way. Adopting this approach allows our switching solutions to maintain signal transparency, providing the highest level of signal integrity. This is one of the main reasons why VTI is proud to be a part of the US Navy’s eCASS system – the most powerful ATE system in the world. eCASS is the US Navy’s core test system and ensures that fleet aircraft can maintain mission-ready status by facilitating quick diagnostic and repair of line-replaceable subassemblies. Extending on our reputation as a premier supplier of core ATE switching systems, VTI’s award winning EX1200 series forms the core of the eGPI (Enhanced Switching and General Purpose Interface) subsystem which provides signal switching and routing throughout the eCASS system. The eGPI subsystem is designed to improve the maintainability of ATE systems. This innovative approach allows the Navy to maintain its large install base of legacy test program sets (TPS) while creating the flexibility required to support next generation programs.

    We are proud to work with the Navy and as well to work with KTC. Back to you Bob….

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