USB refers to Universal Serial Bus, of course. But it could just as easily stand for Ubiquitous Serial Bus. It has become that popular.
Manufacturers of all kinds of T&M equipment— standalone or computer-based—have taken advantage of it. The latest is National Instruments' CompactDAQ, a modular data-acquisition system that offers up to 256 channels of electrical, physical, mechanical, or acoustic measurements in a 10-in. wide chassis (see the figure).
Besides the eight-slot chassis, the NI CompactDAQ system features an array of 13 C-series modules, each 2.75 by 0.875 by 3.44 in., that perform analog or digital input or output, relay, or counter/pulse generator functions. Resolutions to 24 bits are available, as are digital I/O rates to 10 Msamples/s, analog inputs to 250 ksamples/s, and analog outputs to 100 ksamples/s.
The modules include sensor-specific signal conditioning. All are hotswappable and auto-detectable for simplified setup and offer 2300 V of isolation. The chassis includes an 11- to 30-V power supply and connects to a host computer via high-speed USB 2.0.
The system comes with NI-DAQmx driver software and additional measurement services, which are a collection of tools and interfaces that make system setup faster and simpler. An interactive configuration and test panel utility minimizes setup time, while configuration-based data-logging software makes it possible to record data without programming.
The measurement services software also includes an open application programming interface for NI LabView, C/C++, Visual Basic 6, and Microsoft Visual Studio .NET languages. In addition, the DAQ Assistant step-by-step wizard utility automatically generates Lab-View code.
Module prices range from $95 to $1295.