Super-Fast Analog Measurements

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We need to do some pretty fast sampling of analog signals for a consulting contract.  This is part of a proof-of-theory design effort.  That’s one reason it made more sense to purchase something off-the-shelf as opposed to building the client an entire custom electronic system.

Knowing we had to take some fast measurements we looked around and found this pretty cool module from National Instruments.  It’s the NI USB-6366, part of the X Series Data Acquisition product line.   This device can measure 8 differential analog signals simultaneously at a rate of 2 million sample- per-second per-channel.  That’s a 16-bit sample every 0.5 microseconds.  The version we purchased also has a 64 mega-sample buffer.  The device interfaces to a PC via a  high speed USB interface.

This instrument will measure signals from a custom sensor board we’ve already produced and tested.  To test our custom boards we used an Agilent 4-channel digital storage oscilloscope to take individually triggered measurements.  We controlled the oscilloscope over Ethernet with Microsoft’s Visual Basic 2010.  We’re not sure what software we’ll use for this next phase of the design. But using the oscilloscope with our custom sensor board  told us we were on the right path.

One neat feature of the instrument is the magnetic lid that covers the screw terminals (shown removed in the photo).  A variant is also sold that slides into a chassis system and communicates over a PCI express bus.  I guess you could say we’re developing an 8-channel single purpose oscilloscope system.  Hopefully the NI USB-6366 does the trick.

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