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Zynq-based NI VirtualBench fuses 2-channel scope, logic analyzer, frequency synth, DMM, and power supply—works with LabVIEW

Xilinx Employee
Xilinx Employee
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National Instruments (NI) has just introduced the $1999 VirtualBench All-in-One Instrument, the electronic engineer’s instrumentation equivalent of a multi-tool. It’s yet another NI product based on the Xilinx Zynq All Programmable SoC.



NI VirtualBench.jpg 


The NI VirtualBench packs the following instruments into a compact unit:


  • 2-channel, 100MHz digital sampling oscilloscope with 500M/1G samples/sec for 1/2 channels
  • 34-channel, 100MHz logic analyzer
  • 20MHz/125Msamples/sec sine/square/ramp/triangle/dc/arb signal generator (14-bit resolution)
  • 5½-digit DMM with Vdc, Vac, Idc, Iac, resistance, continuity, and diode measurements
  • 3-channel programmable power supply (0-6V @ 1A, 0-25V @ 0.5A, 0 to -25V @ 0.5A))
  • 8 channels of digital I/O (5V-compatible input, 3.3V output)


If you’ve been in the industry long enough, this instrument may vaguely remind you of the old Tektronix TM500 series modular instruments from the 1970s—but there are big differences. First, you control the NI VirtualBench using a touch screen—with control applications for Windows PCs and iPads (the iPad app ships in July). Second, the NI VirtualBench is a smart instrument. It’s controlled by NI’s LabVIEW, the GUI-based design platform for measurement and control systems. Third, the old instruments never had WiFi and USB 2.0 connectivity. NI’s VirtualBench does. The combination makes a potent, low-cost instrumentation platform. (Specs here.)


Here’s a brief video demonstrating the product:






(For several additional videos demonstrating various NI VirtualBench features, click here.)



The use of the touch screen makes the user interface look pretty darn intuitive, I’d say. Here’s what Chris Delvizis, senior product manager at National Instruments, told Control Engineering in an interview published earlier this month, “This resolves a lot of pain points. The software interface dynamically delivers content relevant to the task the user is doing. It simplifies the experience, similar to consumer-based apps.” Here’s what Delvizis told Evaluation Engineering, “We think the next generation of engineers will come to expect same UI found on PCs and mobile devices. We set out to build a better bench-top instrument to take advantage of the latest UI technology." He also quotes a Frost and Sullivan study: “Engineers will increasingly associate the concept of a user interface with the one they use on their consumer electronics devices."


Like many of NI’s recently introduced products (CompactRIO-9068, myRIO, roboRIO), the NI VirtualBench is based on a Xilinx Zynq SoC—a Zynq XC7Z020 in this case—which combines a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor with programmable logic. (For more information, see the Xcell Daily post “How Xilinx All Programmable technology has fundamentally changed business at National Instruments.”)



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