We were asked to add new cards to the existing portfolio of analog and digital data acquisition streaming cards.
PCIe/PXIe measurement cards are typically used on production lines for product measurement, testing and support quality assurance policy. PCIe cards can be plugged into a standard desktop PC motherboard while PXIe cards are used in industrial segments and fit industrial measurement systems.
Our Task and Challenge
Consilia was asked to add new cards to the existing portfolio of analog and digital data acquisition streaming cards.
The new cards replaced the old family that used obsolete components. An integral part of the development was creating a new driver for Windows that would make the cards compatible with the existing APIs and GUI applications.
The project started with a small request to redesign one card. The task was to develop a robust solution for a new card that would replace obsolete components and outdated drivers.
After a detailed analysis, it was concluded that creating a new family of universal digital cards would be wiser.
Various assembly options, together with tailored FPGA firmware, allowed for creating a family of 5 digital cards. The cards enable data sampling on 32-bit input port at 66 MSPS (mega samples per second) and the generation of an arbitrary output pattern on its the 32-bit output port at the same sampling speed of 66 MSPS.
These data acquisition cards use 16/18-bit ADC, enabling the test system to sample data from 32 multiplexed channels. At the same time, the cards can generate 4 independent analog signals from four 16-bit DACs.
The most advanced version allows users to control high current outputs up to 3A while maintaining galvanic isolation between the analog and digital domains.
Drivers for all new cards designed by Consilia are in one package. This approach facilitates maintenance of the code and the addition of new products and, at the same time, helps to keep the new family backward compatible with the legacy tools.
The whole portfolio of products is designed and assembled in the EU.
The existing family of data acquisition and digital control cards is popular among customers. There is a vast ecosystem built around these cards. Some of the customers come from the automotive segment.
That is because the API developed for them is supported by all leading programming languages such as C/C++, C#, or Visual Basic (.NET). LabVIEW also supports the APIs. It makes the cards very convenient when an existing measurement system is already in use.
Each card is supported by an in-house-built Windows 10 compatible GUI system, enabling an easy evaluation of a card's performance before purchasing it.
By developing a new family of cards, Consilia managed to preserve the existing running systems and enhance them with new features. The cards developed by Consilia are a win-win solution for the producer and the end customers.
By integrating several cards into a universal one, the producer needs to manage fewer SKUs. The end customers gained the cards that are pin to pin compatible with the previous family. At the same time, they gained features, such as high-speed streaming, that were not available in previous models.
Still, the most significant benefit is hidden in the software. The drivers for the new family are digitally signed by Microsoft. The digitally signed drivers are required for Windows x64-based systems, so the drivers are compatible with Windows 10 and prepared for Windows 11.
Another added benefit of our solution is the ability to add new features without the need to modify the hardware.
Two PCI/PCIe bridges and an FPGA from the legacy cards were replaced by one FPGA with a PCIe periphery. While the FPGA maintains the functionality of the previous cards, it still has space to accommodate new features.
This quality makes the card an excellent solution for high-speed data streaming analyzers or complex time-sensitive control systems.
How It Is Made
The whole product line is implemented as optoisolated I/O cards. PCB stack-up consists of an 8-layer structure, and onboard signals reach up to 5GHz. Each PCB is stuffed with typically one thousand components.
As the PCBs are usually installed by the end-user, strict visual requirements, including specific brand colors, were applied.
From the engineer’s point of view, key parameters are, e.g., resolution 16bit or 18-bit, programmable gain, sample rate up to 2MHz, I/O interface with 32 channels, and sample & hold functionality.
The wide product range also offers classic PC measurement cards that the company has been developing for over 30 years.
We started in 2020 with digital cards and continued in 2021 with analog cards. During all this time, we have been continuously developing and integrating software drivers.
Since the foundation of Consilia in 2004, we have finished and supported dozens of projects.
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Consilia has a workforce of 30 developers in the competence fields of software development, software testing, hardware design, RF design, FPGA design, DSP design, and PCB design.