PXI State of the Union

New PXI hardware and software specifications recently were released by the PXI Systems Alliance (PXISA), an organization of more than 50 companies from around the world dedicated to providing an open platform for measurement and automation applications. These specs are designed to separate hardware and software requirements, allowing each to evolve independantly as dictated by the needs of the market.

Introduced in the late 1990s, PXI is a modular instrumentation platform. The new specifications include the following:

  • Enhanced power requirements enabling designers to add more functionality to PXI instrument designs.
  • Support for a dual-stack, 3U chassis allowing a 6U chassis to support a greater number of instruments.
  • Geographic addressing providing a better mechanism for slot and chassis identification for PXI modules.
  • Improved hardware description framework allowing better resource management for PXI configuration software.

Increased Sales

The PXISA announced an impressive growth of 35% in the sales of PXI products and a 55% increase in PXI product introductions during 2002. Despite a flat economy in other test and measurement market segments, PXI sales topped $95 million in 2002, up from $70 million in 2001, according to preliminary estimates from Prime Data, the organization that tracks sales in the test and measurement industry.

The 2002 PXI Catalog from Bode Enterprises lists 883 PXI products available worldwide, up from 568 in 2001. With more than 200 test-related CompactPCI products available, PXI now offers more than 1,100 products targeting test and measurement, data acquisition, and factory-automation applications.

Since its acceptance as an industry standard in 1998, PXI has grown steadily in both overall sales and the number of available products. Prime Data has projected steady growth for PXI at 35% per year for the next two years, estimating sales for 2004 at around $175M.

Emerging Technology

The growth in sales and number of products speaks for itself. What is not so apparent is the work behind the scenes to foster future growth and develop new market segments.

The new hardware specification allows PXI to address applications required by even denser instrumentation functionality. Providing more power to the modules is required to support this increased functionality. The new software specification improves the way extensions across PXI bridges are handled, makes the task of program generation easier, and extends PXI’s reputation for reliable, easy-to-use systems.

The recent introduction of instrumentation modules opens the doors to new applications for PXI-based systems. Two examples illustrate this point, but there are many more.

The first is National Instruments’ PXI 5660 RF Signal Analyzer, a 2.7-GHz broadband measurement product with a 20-MHz real-time bandwidth. Combined with a digitizer that provides 80 dB of spurious-free dynamic range, the PXI 5660 is aimed at a variety of applications for RF testing for wireless devices such as cell phones and PDAs. Not only does the PXI 5660 have fundamental measurement capability to allow PXI-based systems to be competitive in this market, but it also provides opportunities for other PXI vendors that make RF switching and other analog measurement products.

Pickering Interfaces’ new BRIC PXI Switch System accommodates more than 2,000 reed relay switches in a flexible matrix configuration, all packaged in a four-slot, 3U PXI package. This high-density packaging offers the kind of switching performance needed by next-generation PXI-based systems for functional test.


PXI clearly is growing in product availability, market size, and capability. From any angle, the future looks bright for this emerging architecture.

on PXISA and the PXI specifications

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Published by EE-Evaluation Engineering
All contents © 2003 Nelson Publishing Inc.
No reprint, distribution, or reuse in any medium is permitted
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June 2003

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