Astronics Test Systems

NIWeek at 20: providing an assist to hundreds of thousands of new products

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Austin, TX. National Instruments today kicked off its annual NIWeek event with several significant product introductions, spanning manufacturing test to field data acquisition. New products introduced today included the NI Semiconductor Test System (STS) Series, several new software-designed instruments, and a CompactDAQ 4-slot controller. And of course, the company issued its annual software update in the form of NI LabVIEW 2014.

In the opening keynote presentation, vice president Ray Almgren welcomed attendees to the 20th NIWeek. Over the years, he said, the event has hosted presenters ranging from grade-school students to astronauts—and NI has assisted its customers in developing hundreds of thousands of new products. Going forward, he said, NI and its customers will harness big analog data to answer these questions: Who will repair our infrastructure? Who will make the smart grid smarter? Who will fuel the exploration for oil and gas? “You and NI will,” he told attendees.

CEO and cofounder Dr. James Truchard followed Almgren’s comments by citing the importance of harnessing big analog data for mixed-signal test. Analytics, he said, will turn big data into wisdom. He noted that the Internet of things (IoT) has a lot of buzz right now, but he broke the IoT into two components: social and industrial. NI plays a prominent role in the latter, he said, with platforms like NI CompantRIO and ComactDAQ playing a role in measurement and control—yielding everything from a smart factory to a smarter planet. He noted that pundits refer to a variety of terms—from Industrie 4.0 to cyberphysical systems. The latter, he said, is his preference—it suggests computation, communication, and control, with the possibility of a human in the loop.

Truchard noted the importance of timing and synchronization to today’s measurement and control needs, citing NI’s contributions leading up to the FPGA-based software designed instruments introduced today. Those instruments address automated test and research applications across wireless and mobile devices, semiconductor, automotive, and aerospace/defense industries. They include a 14-bit, 250-MS/s, 300-MHz, 8-channel oscilloscope, a 26.5-GHz high-performance RF vector signal analyzer, a 12-bit, 2-GS/s, 2-GHz intermediate frequency digitizer, and a 12.5-Gb/s, 8-TX/8-RX-lane high-speed serial instrument.

Somewhat surprisingly, the company went turnkey (some might suggest) with the introduction today of the NI Semiconductor Test System (STS) series, which support automated test of RF and mixed-signal devices. But despite the turnkey flavor of the new system, which integrates with handlers, for example, Luke Schreier, senior group manager of test systems, emphasized that the systems are based on the open-architecture PXI platform and are fully accessible to the customer. The approach, he said, is particularly beneficial for customers with RF and mixed-signal test needs.

NI also announced the CompactDAQ 4-slot controller. By integrating the processor, signal conditioning, and I/O into a single CompactDAQ system, the company said, engineers and scientists can reduce overall system cost and complexity while increasing measurement accuracy. Integrated measurement systems reduce the number of components, connections, and wiring needed, where noise and additional costs are often introduced, to ensure high-accuracy measurements and cost-optimized systems.

And of course, NI debuted LabVIEW 2014 system design software, featuring upgrades to help users acquire, analyze, and visualize data sets to make informed decisions fast. LabVIEW 2014 standardizes the way users interact with hardware through reuse of the same code and engineering processes across systems, which scales applications for the future.

NI fellow Mike Santori concluded the keynote session by noting that NI aims to leverage its technology across all its customers’ departments from design to test, leveraging existing infrastructure.

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