The Testbench

National Instruments Makes Its Move In RF

NI’s recent acquisitions of AWR and Phase Matrix should make RF engineers sit up and take notice. It’s not as if NI didn’t already have a good amount of RF expertise in the house; last year’s introduction of its PXI VNA module was proof of that pudding. But NI has its sights set on serious building up of its RF know-how, and with the addition of AWR’s capabilities on the software side and Phase Matrix’s hardware acumen, NI is well on its way to becoming an RF powerhouse.

NI’s PXIe-5630 6 GHz two-port vector network analyzer, introduced during NI Week last August, remains an impressive instrument. Yet, Phase Matrix brings to NI the ability to extend the frequency range of its PXI modules to 26.5 GHz and beyond. I spoke recently with NI’s Shelley Gretlein, a senior group manager for the LabVIEW software platform, who told me that NI expects the Phase Matrix team to contribute very quickly to the development of new, higher-frequency products for NI’s lineup. Phase Matrix brings to the table strong expertise in modular instrumentation, fast-switching synthesizers, and high-frequency microwave components. There's no doubt that the PXI form factor poses a stiff technical challenge, but it will be interesting to watch the combined companies take it on.

AWR brings its Microwave Office and Visual System Simulator tools to the LabVIEW stable, and the new combined software offering will strongly support the RF measurement hardware side of the house. There’s almost total synergy between the two organizations’ products, which will team to help RF engineers increase test reuse and decrease test time. Gretlein sees the AWR integration as a somewhat longer-term effort than the Phase Matrix hardware, but the result should reap rewards for RF designers needing to validate their simulations with real-world measurements. Keep your eyes on this space for more news on NI’s move into the RF realm.

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