By Anthony J. Lockwood
National Instruments (NI; Austin, TX) has introduced what it describes as the world’s first RF (radio frequency) vector signal transceiver (VST), the NI PXIe-5644R. The NI PXIe-5644R features a software-centric architecture that enables engineers and scientists to use NI LabVIEW system design software to tailor the unit’s field-programmable gate array (FPGA) based hardware for their specific needs. This quality, says the company, represents both a new class and a new era of software-designed instrumentation.
|The NI PXIe-5644R vector signal transceiver. Image courtesy of National Instruments.|
The NI PXIe-5644R VST, according to the company, is said to be ideal for testing such wireless standards as 802.11ac and LTE. The NI PXIe-5644R, adds NI, provides the performance and flexibility of an R&D-grade box instrument with the speed, low cost, and small form factor of a manufacturing test system. Measurement performance is said to be more than 10 times faster than comparable solutions.
The NI PXIe-5644R VST unit combines a vector signal analyzer and vector signal generator with a user-programmable FPGA for real-time signal processing and control into a single 3-slot PXI Express modular instrument module. Built on the NI LabVIEW RIO architecture, the VST specifications include a 65MHz to 6.0 GHz frequency range coverage, 80MHz instantaneous RF bandwidth (3 db), and 24 I/O channels. Miscellaneous features include RF record and playback, RF list mode, and device control over standard or proprietary digital buses. The NI PXIe-5644R is readily expandable for multiple input, multiple output configurations or parallel testing, and it is scalable for future applications.
|The NI PXIe-5644R VST’s FPGA-based hardware is programmable with NI LabVIEW system design software. Image courtesy of National Instruments.|
The NI PXIe-5644R VST’s software is built on NI LabVIEW FPGA. It’s said to offer numerous open starting points for application development, including application IP, reference designs, examples, and LabVIEW sample projects. These starting points, which are said to be fully user-customizable, include default LabVIEW FPGA personalities and prebuilt FPGA bit files. NI PXIe-5644R VST’s software allows access down to the individual pin level, enabling the instrument to be designed for specific RF applications.
“When we first started our company,” said Dr. James Truchard, president, CEO and cofounder of National Instruments in a press statement. “We envisioned the central role software would play in instrumentation, and now we are truly seeing LabVIEW revolutionize the way engineers approach RF design and test.”
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Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.