VTI Instruments Shocks and Vibrates the Industry with a New Architecture. But What’s Inside???

VTI rocked the mechanical test industry at the IMAC show today by launching a new family of “Smart” Dynamic Signal Analyzers.  Dynamic Signal Analyzers (DSA) are precision high-speed multi-channel data acquisition instruments for mechanical applications.  Any product where noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) must be critically measured and controlled uses these devices in the development and testing phase. Think of tuning the sound coming from a motorcycle exhaust, the compression of a jet turbine engine or the flex pattern on an airplane wing, and you get an idea of the span of applications addressed by these instruments.  Years ago I used an HP 3565 DSA, the quintessential “box” DSA, to tune the flatness of a set of subwoofers I had built.

Hewlett Packard, and then VTI, continued the development of DSAs in VXI.  VXI proved a perfect match for NVH applications: modular for scalable channel counts, register-based for high speed, and a range of “static” data acquisition instruments (temperature, pressure) for other common mechanical measurements.  VTI purchased the mechanical test business from Agilent in 2003, and the VT1432B family has been the preeminent DSA family in the industry.  VTI was a founding member of the LXI consortium, and launched a new family of data acquisition products based on LAN, and the IEEE 1588 timing standard.

Fast forward to the breaking news.  Today, VTI launched the SentinelEX Series, which they call their 4th generation architecture.  Let’s dive into what they have.

SentinelEX is branding for a family of measurement solutions, some of which are pre-existing. What is brand new is the EMX Series, which they describe as “precision reconfigurable modular instrumentation”.  The module photos and chassis specs tell us the information that is otherwise hidden: These are all PXIe instruments!  This is confirmation of Prediction #9 to “expect at least one VXI vendor to bring out its next generation application in PXI or AXIe.”  This is exactly what VTI has chosen to do.

Let’s start with the chassis.  VTI introduced a 9-slot chassis (EMX09) with an integrated controller that includes an embedded GbE LXI interface, a small status display, and IEEE 1588 timing for synchronization between chassis even if they are geographically distributed. All slots are PXIe compatible, with a hybrid slot included.  So, let me ask this question: Is this an LXI product or a PXIe product?  Answer: Both!  What VTI has essentially done is created an application-focused product, leveraging PXIe. Sound familiar?

Now to the modules. VTI has a series of DSA modules. The EMX-4250 series are 8 and 16 channel digitizers at 204.8Ks/s each, with 24-bits of resolution. Both are optimized for AC coupled transducers, needed for vibration analysis. Additional modules can serve as breakout boxes for BNC connectivity. For higher frequencies, VTI is introducing the EMX-4350: Four differential channels at 625Ks/s each, with <98db distortion and 0.001 db flatness. All of these can be augmented by the EMX-1434 synchronized source. It includes 4 independent channels of 192Ks/s arbitrary waveform generation, an integrated tachometer, and 4 channels of Digital I/O.  It brings the capability of a synchronized DSA source and rotational measurements.

There’s more.  A lot more.  Other modules bring dynamic strain and voltage measurements, high-density thermocouple measurements, RTD measurements, and general purpose data acquisition modules (DIO, Analog In, Analog Out).

Shock and awe.  Finally, for very high speed and pyroshock applications, VTI is introducing a family of 10Ms/s digitizers that have 1Mhz and 5Mhz analog bandwidths. Overall I counted 22 new products being introduced by VTI!

These are very impressive specifications.  Furthermore, the products are user customizable through AXI based FPGAs, and can use MATLAB, Simulink, and other model-based design tools for high-speed real-time analysis. On top of this, VTI offers a wide range of software solutions, supporting data acquisition, DSA and NVH applications.

What VTI isn’t doing, at least right away, is offering these modules as stand-alone products. The modules are mixed and matched, and then integrated within the chassis, to solve specific complex mechanical challenges. With a simultaneous introduction of 22 new products, I can see why they need to focus.  Tom Sarfi, VP of Business Development at VTI, describes the introduction as “a revolutionary modular product family for the DSA/NVH market, thus beginning the largest wave of product introductions in our history that will continue over the next few months.”

Note the end of that sentence again, “…thus beginning the largest wave of product introductions in our history that will continue over the next few months.”  There’s more to come.

Kudos to VTI for such an exciting announcement, and for their innovative use of combining the LXI, IEEE 1588, and PXIe architectures.

By Larry DJ

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