National Instruments introduced a new family of open, FPGA-based hardware for the PXI platform. The NI FlexRIO product family is the industry’s first commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solution to provide engineers with the flexibility of NI LabVIEW FPGA technology combined with high-speed, instrument-class I/O. With NI FlexRIO, engineers can add custom signal processing algorithms to their PXI-based field-programmable gate array (FPGA) hardware. Then, with interchangeable adapter modules, they can directly interface the FPGA to instrument-class I/O or create their own custom front-end hardware to meet their specific application requirements. With these capabilities, engineers can employ techniques such as in-line processing, hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) simulation and protocol-aware test required during the design and testing of many complex electronic devices.
“LabVIEW FPGA technology will continue to transform instrumentation and extend graphical system design by providing software programmability at the hardware level,” said Dr. James Truchard, president, CEO and cofounder of National Instruments. “NI FlexRIO gives engineers a way to solve applications that were previously impossible with COTS hardware.”
NI FlexRIO FPGA modules feature high-performance Xilinx Virtex-5 FPGAs that engineers can program using the LabVIEW FPGA Module. Previously, FPGA technology was limited to a subset of hardware engineers with extensive knowledge in digital design, but LabVIEW FPGA makes this technology available to all engineers through intuitive graphical programming. Using LabVIEW FPGA, engineers gain direct access to raw digital pins on the NI FlexRIO FPGA modules, with 66 differential lines at up to 1 Gb/s per pair or 132 single-ended lines at up to 400 Mb/s. In addition, NI FlexRIO FPGA modules offer deep onboard memory and the ability to use external clocks.
All NI FlexRIO implementations require two distinct hardware pieces – a PXI FPGA module and an adapter module, which defines the specific I/O capabilities of the system. The first NI FlexRIO adapter module is the NI 6581 high-speed digital I/O adapter, which is ideal for algorithmic pattern generation and protocol-aware tests. The NI 6581 delivers 100 MHz of digital I/O (200 Mb/s DDR) through 54 single-ended channels with selectable voltage levels including 1.8 V, 2.5 V and 3.3 V (5 V compatible). National Instruments also has worked with Averna to create a plug-and-play IEEE 1394b adapter module, and expects many additional modules to be available from third parties in the future.
Additionally, NI FlexRIO offers engineers the flexibility to design their own custom adapter modules with the exact converters, buffers, clocks and connectors to meet their application needs. To help engineers develop their own module configurations, the NI FlexRIO Adapter Module Development Kit (MDK) features full documentation on electrical and mechanical design details, including CAD files and PCB outlines as well as various adapter module metal enclosures.
PCI eXtensions for Instrumentation (PXI) is an open specification governed by the PXI Systems Alliance (www.pxisa.org) that defines a rugged, CompactPCI-based platform optimized for test, measurement and control. Founded in 1997, the PXI specification is supported by more than 70 vendors offering more than 1,500 PXI products. PXI products are compatible with the CompactPCI and CompactPCI Express industrial computer standards and offer additional features such as environmental specifications, standardized software and built-in timing and synchronization.
About National Instruments
National Instruments is transforming the way engineers and scientists design, prototype and deploy systems for measurement, automation and embedded applications. NI empowers customers with off-the-shelf software such as NI LabVIEW and modular cost-effective hardware, and sells to a broad base of more than 25,000 different companies worldwide, with no one customer representing more than 3 percent of revenue and no one industry representing more than 10 percent of revenue. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, NI has more than 5,000 employees and direct operations in more than 40 countries. For the past nine years, FORTUNE magazine has named NI one of the 100 best companies to work for in America.
NI 6581 High-Speed Digital Adapter Module priced from $999; €949; ¥147,000
NI PXI-795xR FPGA Modules for NI FlexRIO priced from $2,999; €2,749; ¥378,000
NI FlexRIO Adapter Module Development Kit priced from $4,999; €4,599; ¥630,000