Test & Measurement

AWGs deliver 24V output swings on up to 8 channels

12th February 2020
Lanna Cooper

The ability of Arbitrary Waveform Generators (AWGs) to recreate virtually any waveshape makes them especially useful as signal generators in today’s sophisticated electronic systems. Spectrum Instrumentation recently released four new models in its generatorNETBOX family with output swings of up to 24V on up to 8 channels, to cover even the most demanding test applications.

The new units use the latest 16-bit Digital-Analogue-Converters and offer two different speed ranges: the DN2.657 models output waveforms at rates up to 125MS/s while the DN2.654 units have a 40MS/s capability. Both speed ranges are available with either 4 or 8 fully synchronous channels.

Create test waveforms anywhere

LXI-based instruments, with their simple Ethernet connection to PCs or computer networks, are easy to integrate and operate. Small and compact, Spectrum’s generatorNETBOX products use Gbit Ethernet and weigh as little as 6.3Kgs.

This means they are portable and can work almost anywhere; freestanding on a test bench, rack-mounted with other equipment, or even mobile (when equipped with an optional 12 or 24VDC power supply). 

For applications where a generatorNETBOX needs to operate remotely, Spectrum also offers an embedded server option, DN2.xxx-Emb. The option combines a powerful CPU, a freely accessible SSD, more memory and a remote software development access method.

It creates an open platform where the user can run their own software while, at the same time, still be connected, via LAN, for remote access. The option effectively allows the generatorNETBOX to operate independently or, when connected to a LAN, as part of a larger system. 

Create almost any test waveform

For suitable waveform generation, each channel features its own 16-bit DAC and output stage. Channels share a common clock and trigger to guarantee full synchronisation and the output stages incorporate four switchable filter paths to help optimise signal quality.

The flexible output stages combine with the high resolution DACs to ensure the generation of signals with very low distortion, wide dynamic range and a signal-to-noise ratio. All the models feature the ability to output waveforms with amplitude swings of up to ±12V into a 1MOhm load or ±6V into 50Ohms.

Oliver Rovini, CTO at Spectrum, said: “These new AWG products offer a cost effective solution, in one easy to integrate package, for anybody wanting to generate larger test signals in the DC to 60MHz range. We’ve designed them with versatility in mind and incorporated features that allow the creation of an almost limitless range of test and control signals.

"For example, the units include large on-board memories of up to 2 x 512 MSamples that can be utilised in a number of different operating modes thereby allowing the generation of long and complex waveforms. This includes Single-Shot, Loop, FIFO, Gated and Sequence Replay modes. In FIFO mode, the instruments can stream data continuously over the Gbit Ethernet port from PC memory to the AWG memory. Signals can even be generated while new waveform data is being loaded to the on-board memory.”

The AWG's flexibility is further enhanced by front-panel, multipurpose I/O connectors that give access to additional synchronous digital (marker) outputs, asynchronous digital I/O, the trigger output, the run and arm status, and different clocks.

Simple control and signal generation

Controlling and generating signals with a generatorNETBOX is straight forward. The instruments come with Spectrum’s SBench 6 Professional software as standard. SBench 6 enables the user to control all the modes and settings of the AWG via a simple easy-to-use interface. The software supports multi-channel operation and has a host of built-in features for waveform display, signal generation, data analysis and documentation.

Basic signals can be created using the software’s EasyGenerator function that produces waveforms such as sine waves, triangles or rectangles with programmable frequency, amplitude and phase. More complex signals can be created using mathematical equations or by importing data from other programmes or devices (such as digitisers or oscilloscopes) in Binary, ASCII, or Wave formats.

The generatorNETBOX units are fully programmable and drivers are provided, free of charge, to support the most popular programming languages (such as C++, VB.NET, C#, J#, Delphi, Java or Python code) as well as third party software tools like LabVIEW and MATLAB.

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