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[18 December 2006]: Dataquest Solutions now supply a new range of 16 channel 16-bit signal capture cards, from manufacturer Spectrum GmbH; the M2i.47xx series. When used with the Star-Hub option many such cards may be combined with others in the same PC, or even multiple PC's to provide thousands of channels if required! As with the closely related M2i.46xx careful design ensures the best effective number of bits (ENOBS) and a wide amplifier gain range +/-50mV to +/-10V. With the option to stream data in real time to PC, or the boards own memory (32M samples as standard), this hardware provides the ideal choice for precise measurement at speeds up top 0.5M samples /sec. As with all the Spectrum range further versatility is provided with multiple triggering options, time-stamping, variable sampling rates on event - and an excellent range of software drivers (32 and 64bit) for Windows/Linux code programmers.

[03 September 2006]: For signal capture applications requiring a combination of ultra-high-speed sampling and resolution, the Spectrum M2i.46xx series of 16bit data acquisition cards features sample rates to 3Msample/s and up to eight input channels. Carefully designed to make best use the full dynamic range, great attention has been paid to the quality of the amplifier and the A/D conversion. To this end, the effective number of bits (ENOB) exceeds 14.5 on a wide range of speed and offset adjustable gain ranges (eight in all +/-50mV to +/-10V), with very low internal RMS noise levels of just a few microvolts on the higher gain ranges, all helping to ensure that the quality of results is exceptional. The M2i.46xx provides both single-ended and true (not pseudo) differential inputs, selectable from the software, this means that two channels do not need to be combined to provide a differential capability, so the full number of channels remains, each with its own A/D convertor. Working with differential channels provides excellent common mode noise rejection enhancing the board's performance and giving best results. A very deep standard memory of 64Mbyte is provided, fixed by socket directly to the board, allowing long capture periods. This can be upgraded to 4Gbyte if required, a feature to all M2i cards in the range. Additionally the user can switch to a special FIFO mode, which takes this memory and uses it as a buffer, allowing very efficient real time transfer to PC RAM and HDD. This specification of 16bit board will operate in PCI and PCI-X slots with 3.3V and 5V I/O voltage, hence installation into virtually any PC is possible, or even a full length docking station for use with a notebook PC. So efficient is the design that data can be processed in real time by a running application, while data transfers simultaneously through the PCI or PCI-X slot interface with a bandwidth easily enough to cope with full 3M sample/sec speed capture provided by the M2i.46xx series. Combine this card with others from the Spectrum range using the trigger and clock synchronisation option and any recent PC will be converted to a powerful multi-channel instrument for signal capture, arbitrary waveform generation and high speed digital I/O. DataQuest Solutions can provide cards with sampling rates of up to 500Msample/s for all types of requirements. As with all Spectrum cards, an excellent range of Windows and Linux software driver support (32 and 64bit) is available. For Linux kernel drivers are offered for many standard distributions such as Suse, Redhat, Fedora or Debian with access to optional driver source code, should the distribution not be included. For ease of use programming examples are provided for Visual C++. Borland C++, Gnu C++, Visual Basic and Delphi code, as well as third party package options; LabView, LabWindows, Matlab, VEE, DasyLab or MS Excel. To complete the versatile offering every board purchased comes with SBench, a menu driven signal capture and analysis package complete with a scope type display and easy access to board programmable options, allowing a working system to be up and running within a few minutes. What ever your choice DataQuest Solutions will be pleased to provide rapid experienced support should it be required.

Comprehensive details of the full range can be found on the company's website as well as links to literature and pricing requests.

[28 April 2006]: Electronics manufacturing provides new and evolving challenges, with new test systems continually being required to keep pace with emerging consumer electronic devices. Each device under test may have several functions, each of which may require signal injection, monitoring and pass/fail notification. Take for example a device such as the in-vehicle navigation unit. This incorporates visual, audio, power, and RF components. Tests could include signal injection, signal monitoring, plus digital bus and data stream capture. The traditional approach of specialised test hardware is becoming more frequently a higher cost option with reduced flexibility. With each major update in technology a specialised test system, without the capability to adapt, might need supplementing or replacing. With increasing product volumes and shorter lead times in electronics manufacturing a better solution is a modular system of test hardware, providing an alternative with lower cost, reusability, high throughput, expandability and easy adaptation to differing requirements. Here at DataQuest Solutions we provide two possible routes for the manufacturer, one PC based using the PCI / PCI-X slot, the other utilising a PXI chassis with all the computer processing built in - and it is this latter method that provides a particularly dependable test package for the manufacturing environment and worthy of further mention. PXI allows for any combination of instrumentation cards with chassis commonly available with 5 to 20 slots, each slot capable of taking any card combination, be it multi-channel analogue card or digital I/O. Trigger, timing and synchronisation signals are linked through a back-plane inside the chassis without the need for additional wiring. Computer control of this hardware does not require a separate PC, the chassis holding a controller card with embedded CPU and memory, this makes the system overall more rugged and compact, yet can still be used with a standard screen and keyboard. The choice of PC instrumentation cards to use within the PXI chassis is important to its versatility. Dataquest Solutions provides instrumentation Spectrum GmbH one of Europe's leading manufacturers in this area, with one of the largest ranges of fast and ultra-fast signal capture, waveform generation and digital I/O cards on the market, with sample rates from 1K samples /second to 200MS/s and deep on-board memory. Special data streaming also allows direct transfer of data to computer memory or hard disk with signal read, write and digital pattern control effectively handled with triggering systems able to monitor pulse width, levels and patterns. Triggers can be externally derived or by monitoring the acquired signals under test. However, the versatility of a modular system using slot in cards is only truly achieved when taken in combination with the capabilities of the software. Users such systems based on Spectrum hardware have the option to use the extensive Windows/Linux driver suite. This allows programming in C++, Visual Basic and Delphi, being popular with Engineers who like to get to the "grass roots" of instrumentation control, thus able to adapt the system to just about any task, or to make minor tweaks in response to changing demands. For those who prefer an intuitive package for faster development we also provide drivers for LabView, DASYlab, Agilent VEE and MATLAB plus programming examples. A package called SBench is also provided at no additional cost. This allows rapid configuration of the system, at a glance viewing of signals and logging to memory/hard drive as well as an element of post-processing. Finally it should be noted that the PXI system may be configured to used with LAN, conventional serial, USB and GPIB, so existing test instrumentation based on these communication bus systems can still be operated at the same time, hence the introduction of a new modular system can be complete or complementary. For further advice and product information in this area DataQuest Solutions will be pleased to help.

[3 February 2006]: Taking a desktop PC out of the office and using it for fieldwork, in a vehicle, or at an industrial site, is often not practical. Its construction is not rugged or compact enough. It is for this reason that DataQuest Solutions have complemented their range with two new rugged PC models with special internal battery options. All models are capable of taking any length of PCI card, so providing a go-anywhere package with integral TFT screen and keyboard. Everything is designed to be neat and fasten out of harms way for transit. These rugged computers (model numbers Dewe2508 and Dewe3028) and can operate from AC or DC sources. Taking a closer look at the Dewe2508, we find a PC that provides the greatest independence from an external supply, by featuring HOT-SWAPPABLE compact Li-ion batteries, which locate into the side of the case and are instantly accessible. Each gives an average of 1 hour of operation, (depending on inserted hardware) and up to three can be fitted at one time. By comparison the rugged computer DEWE3028 is best operated where an external power source, be it mains AC or 24VDC is more readily available as this has a smaller capacity internal battery option. This 24V Ni-CAD battery functions as a uninterruptible power supply (UPS), which allows the unit to operate briefly during voltage drops and specifically designed for in vehicle use, where engine cranking at start up can briefly but critically lower the normal supply voltage. Both Dewe2508 and Dewe3028 cases have been designed for MIL-STD810F shock and vibration resistance, and are light in weight, (e.g. about 7Kg for the standard Dewe3020). Processing power comes from the latest generation of processors - presently Pentium M 1.8Ghz - and room for up to 2GB of RAM. Forced air-cooling on both models ensures the system can handle high heat dissipation, particularly important when the internal space is occupied with PCI cards. To these models you can add your own cards, or if it is high-speed signal capture, waveform generation or digital I/O you require, we will be pleased to fit our proven series of Spectrum cards. This will provide the user with powerful multi-channel data acquisition and processing system capable of sampling between 200KHz and 500M samples/sec, all on one robust professional PC box. So now, data acquisition in the field does not mean having to compromise on performance, an important consideration if you are capturing very high-speed signals and performing your data processing out on site or in a vehicle. For more information on or rugged computers you are welcome to browse the DataQuest Solutions Web site, where together with our range of PC instrumentation, rugged Notebooks / laptops and associated PCI docking stations, you are almost guaranteed to find a portable solution to fit your needs.


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