Test & Measurement

PXI Programmable Amplifier and Attenuator Expand National Instruments RF and Microwave Test Portfolio

19th January 2010
ES Admin
National Instruments has expanded its automated test product line with two new RF signal conditioning modules that enhance the measurement accuracy and flexibility of PXI-based RF and microwave test systems. In applications such as RF signal path degradation modeling, field strength metering and receiver testing, engineers can combine the new NI PXI-5695 8 GHz programmable RF attenuator with a vector signal generator (VSG) to improve RF signal quality at low power levels. Engineers can integrate the NI PXI-5691 8 GHz programmable RF preamplifier, which also functions as a power amplifier, with VSGs to increase maximum power and with vector signal analysers (VSAs) to measure low-level signals.
“Accurate control of RF power levels is a critical requirement for us when testing receiver sensitivity,” said Jeff May, Test Engineer at Itron, a leading provider of intelligent metering and a pioneer of smart grid technology. “The new programmable attenuator from NI gives us the high level of precision we need to accurately control stimulus power levels in our PXI production testers, and this is an important benefit that helps us maintain both efficiency and quality in our test process.”

The PXI-5695 is a 50 MHz-to-8 GHz, two-channel programmable RF attenuator with one fixed attenuation path and one programmable attenuation path. The module provides an integrated approach to RF power adjustments and in many cases can replace switch attenuator networks in RF production testers. Engineers can integrate the PXI-5695 with RF signal generators, such as the NI PXIe-5673 6.6 GHz VSG, to accurately control signal power with up to 60 dB of total attenuation and a typical voltage standing wave ratio (VSWR) of 1.3:1. This level of control greatly increases the dynamic range of a VSG and is critical for achieving precise receiver sensitivity measurements.

The PXI-5691 is a 50 MHz-to-8 GHz, two-channel programmable RF amplifier that can function both as a pre-amplifier and power amplifier. With more than 20 dBm maximum output power, up to 60 dB of total gain, 0.5 dB of gain resolution, a +31 dBm third-order intercept point (IP3) and 5 dB noise figures, the amplifier provides ample measurement flexibility and precision when combined with either RF signal generators or signal analysers. When paired with the NI PXIe-5663 6.6 GHz VSA, the new amplifier makes it possible for engineers to achieve an equivalent input noise floor of -163 dBm/Hz. When used with the NI PXIe-5673 VSG, the amplifier facilitates signal generation with up to 100 MHz of instantaneous bandwidth at power levels of up to 20 dBm.

“These new RF signal conditioning modules expand the capability of the PXI platform in RF applications,” said Eric Starkloff, Vice President of Product Marketing for Test at National Instruments. “By continuing to invest in new PXI instrumentation, our goal is to help engineers address complex challenges by building next-generation automated test systems with commercial off-the-shelf solutions.”

As part of the NI PXI platform, the new attenuator and amplifier are optimised for use with NI LabVIEW graphical system design environment and NI LabWindows™/CVI ANSI C software development environment as well as C, C++ and .NET programming. Additionally, each instrument driver includes example LabVIEW code that helps engineers get started with graphical programming to quickly develop their RF or microwave test system.

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