Strategic Test Synchronizes 270 Oscilloscope Cards with Multiple PC's

Strategic Test has introduced the System Star Hub option for the UltraFast(TM) Oscilloscope/Digitizer, AWG and Digital I/O and Digital Pattern Generator PCI cards. For the first time, this allows up to 270 cards installed in multiple PC’s to be synchronized allowing systems with up to 4336 analog channels or 8672 digital channels.

The System Star Hub distributes a common sampling clock and trigger bus across up to 17 PC’s. The System Star Hub Master option is installed on one UltraFast card in the main PC and System Star Hub Slave options are installed on one card in the remaining PC’s. Master and Slaves are then cabled together externally. The maximum distance between each pair of PC’s is 2 meters.

Different types of cards can be used together to create systems with Oscilloscopes, Arbitrary Waveform Generators, high-speed Digital I/O or Digital Pattern Generators. Not all cards have to use the same sampling rate, as the master sampling clock can be divided uniquely on each card.

“The System Star Hub allows users to double the number of cards that can be synchronized together as compared to other competitive offerings,” comments Bob Giblett, President of Strategic Test. “This new architecture now easily enables applications such as measuring fatigue and structural response on aircraft and bridges, or wind tunnel measurement systems.”

The System Star Hub also has the advantage of using the combined PCI bus bandwidths across all PC’s to achieve a much higher streaming rate throughout the system. When one PC is used, the PCI bus has a maximum continuous transfer rate of 100 MBytes per second. This bandwidth is shared by all cards installed and has the effect of limiting the maximum sampling rates of the cards.

For example, when using 8-bit resolution the maximum sampling rate of ten channels when streaming would be 100 MSamples per second or 10 MSamples per second per channel. However, if ten cards each with single channel were distributed in ten PC’s, each channel could reliably stream up to 100 MSamples per second. Maximum sampling rates are not limited if the signals are recorded to card memory without streaming. However, the time to offload the data at the end of the measurement is extended due to the same bandwidth limitation issues.

The System Star Hub performance will increase in the future. The UltraFast PCI cards are also compatible with the PCI-X (66 MHz PCI bus) that has a maximum continuous transfer rate of 225 MBytes per second (2.25 times faster than 33 MHz PCI). Unfortunately, no motherboards exist today with more than a few PCI-X slots. As these do become available, the streaming performance across a System Star Hub configuration will increase.

The price of the Star Hub option to synchronize up to 5 cards in a single PC is $490 and $990 for up to 16 cards. To synchronize multiple PC’s, a System Star Hub Master option is needed for the first PC and is priced at $2800. The addition PC’s are then each equipped with System Star Hub Slaves that are priced at $590 for up to 5 cards or $990 for up to 16 cards.

About Strategic Test
With a product range of more than 150 high-speed Oscilloscope/ Digitizer, Arbitrary Waveform Generator and high-speed Digital I/O PCI, 3U PXI and 6U CompactPCI cards, Strategic Test Corporation is one of the leading suppliers of high-speed PC-based instruments. The UltraFast cards are designed at the R&D facility in northern Germany and distributed through our offices in Woburn (MA) and Stockholm (Sweden).

The first high-speed measurement card for PC’s was designed in 1989. The UF2 series based on the PCI-X 66 MHz/32-bit PCI bus is the forth generation and sets new standards in onboard memory size, data transfer rates and user flexibility. Strategic Test’s clients include global electronics, semiconductor, defense, telecommunications and medical instrument companies, government funded research labs and universities in five continents.