Tuesday, January 17, 2017

GW Instek GFC-8270H 0.01Hz-2.7GHz Frequency Counter

The GFC-8000 Series performs virtually all of the counting measurements required in laboratories, in terms of both period and frequency. A bright red 8 digit LED display with an included overflow indicator provides a clear view. Both models feature a stable time base with a maximum resolution of 100nHz and 10nS at 1Hz for frequency and period measurement, respectively. Gate time can be configured for fast response (5 digits/10ms) or accuracy (7 digits/s) for more control. For high frequency needs, the GFC-8270H can operate at up to 2.7GHz. The GFC-8000 Series features easy operation with a simple front panel interface, suitable for both portable and bench-top use. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Need to add a serial port to your PC? Here's how!

Our Tech Support Manager Al MacRobbie recently recorded a brief video on the simplicities and trickiness of adding a serial port to a PC that lacks one.  Adding our USB-serial cable is the solution but some folks find it trickier than they should ....   Do they follow the instructions??!!

Here's the video

Friday, January 6, 2017

Easy-use USB Interface ICs that need No Drivers!

Warrior ICs from Code Mercenaries are a family of universal I/O controllers for USB that handle all USB’s complex protocol details. No Windows software drivers are needed since Warrior ICs appear as HID Device Class (Human Interface Device). This means that Warrior ICs are controlled without screen-prompting for additional software - system drivers allow access to Warrior ICs directly from application programs. A Linux driver is also included.

Controlling Warrior ICs from your software is very simple. For Windows (XP, 2K, Vista) you can use any standard programming language to access the libraries, including Visual Basic. For MacOS X, support includes a software library which even allows access via AppleEvents™. Want to make a FileMaker™ solution to open a cash drawer, for instance? Easily done with IO-Warrior!

Code Mercenaries has been a supplier for industrial input device and peripheral manufacturers since 1998.

The keyboard/mouse controller family KeyWarrior, and the mouse controller family MouseWarrior serve as basis for a large number of industrial input devices, such as products for the disability market and other specialty input devices.

The joystick controller family JoyWarrior serves a broad range of customers from industrial machine/vision control, professional and semiprofessional simulator control, to hobby and model building. Joystick/mouse hybrid controllers MW24J8 and MW24H8 make good options for front panel design – they are switch selectable to work as a mouse or joystick allowing both cursor control and data input via a joystick.

JoyWarrior24F8 is a low cost three axis acceleration sensor. With its small size and simple USB connection, it opens a lot of new application options. The MouseWarrior24F8 variant of this sensor is a mouse replacement that needs no surface for operation.

Applications for the IO-Warrior universal USB I/O controllers are very diverse. Only the number of pins and the data rate limit the use of IO-Warrior. It is used in laboratory setups, test equipment, as well as in hobby projects or full scale device production - either as the core of a device or just the USB interface.  IO-Warrior chips control robots and telescopes, perform quality control on production lines, take measurements in labs, control switches, and displays in front panels or simulator cockpits, or work as the USB interface in many kinds of manufactured products.

SpinWarrior is a family of rotary encoder controllers with USB interface. Variants allow from 3 to 6 encoders to be USB-connected, and are suitable for motion control, measurement, or human interface applications.

Recently, Code Mercenaries started developing and manufacturing products for LED lighting applications, delivering maximum efficiency and maximum life cycle to match the potential of modern LED technology.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Intelligently controlled light and the potential of DALI 2.

DIAL GmbH’s blog recently had an interesting article on DALI1 & 2 (https://www.dial.de/en/blog/article/intelligently-controlled-light-a-look-at-the-potential-of-dali-2/)

The clear advance of the LED into all areas of lighting technology has led to major changes in the control of luminaires. What was controlled via dimmers or analogue 1....10 V interface a few years ago is now linked digitally to the central nervous system of the building. The standard for the control of luminaires is DALI (Digital Addressable Lighting Interface). Originally created to dim fluorescent lamps, this system has developed into an all-round tool for lighting. The triumph of the LED has also meant a real boom for DALI since LED luminaires provide the best technological conditions for digital control.
What can DALI do? And how does DALI function?

DALI is the most widely used luminaire interface in the control of architectural lighting. Anyone who deals professionally with light and lighting control cannot escape DALI. The standards were laid down in 2000 in the IEC 62386. There are now products developed by many different manufacturers available for a wide range of applications. The functions offered by these devices have increased significantly over the years. Multifunction luminaires with several color channels enable the direct control of any chromaticity coordinate. Depending on which primary colors the luminaire generates, color temperature and/ or saturated colors can be controlled absolutely or relatively. Multi-channel luminaires - with up to six output channels - can be operated without any complicated channel allocation. DALI emergency lighting systems can be monitored and tested easily. 

All these devices are standardized and classified in the DALI standard IEC 62386.102. The different types of devices  (device types 0-8) are defined in standards 201 to 209. For example type 6 focuses especially on LED, or type 1 on the properties of DALI emergency lighting devices. Data communication, sets of parameters and topology are also defined in IEC62386.

Since November a new version of this DALI standard has been available - Edition 2. DALI is expected to close the gaps in the existing standard and to enable better interoperability. While in the first edition only Control gear’s and general communication were described, DALI 2 opens up the world of sensor technology to manufacturers and users. Part 103 "Control devices" was added to IEC 62386. New types of devices in the sensors sector, such as push-buttons, light sensors, motion sensors or remote control interfaces, are now defined in the standard.

DALI Edition 1 functions according to the pure master-slave principle. That means that no control gear (slave) may ever communicate independently on the bus since this does not have any collision detection. The Master Control Device has to inquire about the status of a luminaire so that this may then reply with an 8-bit telegram. So it becomes very clear that comprehensive sensor functions are restricted since a master must continually inquire about the status of all the sensors. Until now this has only been possible with proprietary manufacturer solutions.

For BMS (Building Management Systems) access to the sensor functions is barred completely since there are also no standards for this. The extension of the standard, or rather its completion, in Edition 2 now makes it possible in future  to transmit control commands, operating data for the luminaire ballast and also sensor functions from and to devices of any manufacturer.

DALI 2: Which is the most important innovation?

For the first time DALI 2 now allows sensors to access the bus independently and communicate either with the master control device, luminaire ballast or other sensor control devices. The sensors therefore have the option of bus access control. The sensor telegram is defined as 24-bit and contains an address byte, instance byte and command code byte. Control devices can be addressed and grouped in 32 instances. However, there is a difference to other operating devices in that control devices can transmit group and address information. So, for the very first time, event-driven actions and logical links are possible and intended in the DALI standard . Control devices now have their own address area. That means that with DALI 2 64 ballasts and 64 sensor control devices can be operated on one line.

What does this mean for future applications? Imagine a multi-story office building which is fitted throughout with DALI-capable luminaires. On the different floors DALI multi-function sensors have also been fitted throughout. These sensors can, in the same way as luminaries, be allocated to zones within the room. This can be done very flexibly, so that the use of the building can be changed or adapted. When room zones are redefined, then the sensors move accordingly. Complex (re-)programming is no longer necessary and the lighting can be controlled efficiently, "out of the box", depending on the incidence of daylight and human presence in the room.

Superordinated building automation systems such as BACnet  (Building Automation and Control Networks) are also able to process the sensor information and optimize it with the data from other building technologies such as heating, ventilation, temperature. Central maintenance functions can monitor the status of lamps, energy consumption and display the status of these functions visually. The total automation of buildings thus becomes much simpler and more controllable. Let us take a small digression into the future of product design. It is possible to imagine the integration of sensors into luminaires, into control gears or even into an LED module.
How is compatibility ensured?

How can the intercommunication of DALI devices be ensured? How can we be sure that they are interoperable? With the DALI 2 standard the foundations are laid for future interoperability. For the very first time a standardized control gear is not controlled according to the classic master-slave principle. DALI 2 enables event-driven communication between the application controller and the control device. And of course this is downwardly compatible and parallel to the existing DALI 1 installation. 

Manufacturers of DALI components can of course test these themselves and compare the results with the IEC62386 or employ the services of a specialized testing laboratory such as DIAL. With the DALI 2 logo the manufacturer declares the conformity of his product with the standard. To enable validation the test results must in future be passed on to the AG DALI. For this purpose an online service is available which publishes all devices with DALI conformity in a product data bank. Designers and users can thus very quickly obtain an overview of the available devices of a particular type.  

LED-Warrior14U-DR USB to DALI Bridge (LW14U-DR)

Laplace Instruments Products: FaulTracker FTR

Laplace Instruments Products: FaulTracker FTR

A powerful fault finding tool for complex electrical systems.

The FTR FaulTracker is a recorder/monitor specifically designed to check the operation of electrical control equipment. It is ideal for the 'capture' of those frustrating intermittent situations where problems only occur briefly, but can have serious consequences.

The FTR can be connected to up to 16 points in the system to be monitored, the inputs accepting anything from low voltage DC to 265V ac without any adjustment. The FTR monitors these inputs in terms of ON/OFF status, and will record any changes (events) in these inputs with millisecond accuracy. The recording can be of many days or weeks duration  Subsequently, these events can be replayed, one step at a time either on the built-in display or on a PC via the included serial port and included Windows application software.

Click here for more details.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

‘LOG Storm’ High-speed Digital Data Logger

affordable extended digital recording and data filtering capability

LOG Storm 2MS is an economical high-speed digital data logger for troubleshooting digital system buses. LOG Storm 2MS contains an 8Mbyte/2Msample memory buffer, enabling large bursts of data up to 20bits at 100 MHz to be sampled. A USB connection streams the collected data to an attached PC, enabling gigabytes of data storage. LOG Storm 2MS 's most useful feature is its data filtering capability, efficiently storing only relevant data.

Design engineers often use a logic analyzer for digital system debug, but they frequently report that this is unhelpful when problems result from a long sequence of combined software and hardware events. Logic analyzers cannot record sufficient depths of relevant data history to be useful. In contrast, LOG Storm 2MS is a dedicated hardware/software combination that can collect high-speed digital bus activity for periods of hours or even days, and extract specific functional events of interest, improving an engineer’s debug capabilities enormously.

Frederic Leens, Sales & Marketing Manager at Byte Paradigm (Belgium) comments: 'By customer demand, we have already addressed one of the most common digital debugging problems: the need to understand the history of events that lead to a bug – but now we have made it even more affordable!'

Most oscilloscopes and logic analyzers do not have the capability of recording hours or days of digital trace data. LOG Storm 2MS provides the high speed data sampling, large storage capacity, and pre-filtering necessary to extract useful, relevant digital bus traffic evidence to quickly solve complex system debug problems.

LOG Storm 2MS offers compact, easy-to-deploy data logging with huge storage capability, a high sampling rate and rich data storage qualification capabilities. Examples of use include: SPI message monitoring of specific slave select lines; continuous, filtered data packet header evaluation; long-term bus monitoring; in-lab development; on-site post-installation servicing for chip-to-chip communication emulation, IP evaluation, etc.
Made in Europe by Byte Paradigm, a leading embedded test equipment manufacturer, LOG Storm 2MS is available now at $599 - more details HERE.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Fast Fourier Transform Spectrum Analyzer on your scope ...

FFT Spectrum Analyzers use DSP techniques to provide in-depth waveform analysis with great flexibility (tutorial): http://bit.ly/2iaG3YZ.  Ian Poole in Radio-Electronics writes:

A FFT or Fast Fourier Transform spectrum analyzer uses digital signal processing techniques to analyze a waveform using Fourier transforms to provide in depth analysis of signal waveform spectra. The FFT analyzer can provide information not available from swept frequency analyzers, enabling fast capture and forms of analysis that are not possible with sweep / superheterodyne techniques alone.

Advantages and disadvantages of FFT analyzer technology

As with any form of technology, FFT analyzers have their advantages and disadvantages:
    Advantages of FFT spectrum analyzer technology
  • Fast capture of waveform:   In view of the fact that the waveform is analyzed digitally, the waveform can be captured in a relatively short time, and then the subsequently analyzed. This short capture time can have many advantages - it can allow for the capture of transients or short lived waveforms.
  • Able to capture non-repetitive events:   The short capture time means that the FFT analyzer can capture non-repetitive waveforms, giving them a capability not possible with other spectrum analyzers.
  • Able to analyze signal phase:   As part of the signal capture process, data is gained which can be processed to reveal the phase of signals.
  • Waveforms can be stored   Using FFT technology, it is possible to capture the waveform and analyze it later should this be required.
    Disadvantages of the FFT spectrum analyzer technology
  • Frequency limitations:   The main limit of the frequency and bandwidth of FFT spectrum analyzers is the analogue to digital converter, ADC that is used to convert the analogue signal into a digital format. While technology is improving this component still places a major limitation on the upper frequency limits or the bandwidth if a down-conversion stage is used.
  • Cost:  The high level of performance required by the ADC means that this item is a very high cost item. In addition to all the other processing and display circuitry required, this results in the costs rising for these items.

Fast Fourier Transform

At the very heart of the concept of the FFT analyzer is the fast Fourier Transform itself. The fast Fourier Transform, FFT uses the same basic principles as the Fourier transform, developed by Joseph Fourier (1768 - 1830) in which one value in, say, the continuous time domain is converted into the continuous frequency domain, including both magnitude and phase information.
However to capture a waveform digitally, this must be achieved using discrete values, both in terms of the values of samples taken, and the time intervals at which they are taken. As the time domain waveform is taken at time intervals, it is not possible for the data to be converted into the frequency domain using the standard Fourier transform. Instead a variant of the Fourier transform known as the Discrete Fourier Transform, DFT must be used.
As the DFT uses discrete samples for the time domain waveform, this reflects into the frequency domain and results in the frequency domain being split into discrete frequency components of "bins." The number of frequency bins over a frequency band is the frequency resolution. To achieve greater resolution, a greater number of bins is needed, and hence in the time domain a large number of samples is required. As can be imagined, this results in a much greater level of computation, and therefore methods of reducing the amount of computation required is needed to ensure that the results are displayed in a timely fashion, although with today's vastly increased level of processing power, this is less of a problem. To ease the processing required, a Fast Fourier Transform, FFT is used. This requires that the time domain waveform has a the number of samples equal to a number which is an integral power of two.

FFT spectrum analyzer

The block diagram and topology of an FFT analyzer are different to that of the more usual superheterodyne or sweep spectrum analyzer. In particular circuitry is required to enable the digital to analogue conversion to be made, and then for processing the signal as a Fast Fourier Transform.
The FFT spectrum analyzer can be considered to comprise of a number of different blocks:
Block diagram of an FFT - Fast Fourier Transform spectrum analyzer shwoingt he various circuit blocks required
FFT Spectrum Analyzer Block Diagram
  • Analog front-end attenuators / gain:   The test instrument requires attenuators of gain stages to ensure that the signal is at the right level for the analogue to digital conversion. If the signal level is too high, then clipping and distortion will occur, too low and the resolution of the ADC and noise become a problems. Matching the signal level to the ADC range ensures the optimum performance and maximizes the resolution of the ADC.
  • Analog low-pass anti-aliasing filter:   The signal is passed through an anti-aliasing filter. This is required because the rate at which points are taken by the sampling system within the FFT analyzer is particularly important. The waveform must be sampled at a sufficiently high rate. According to the Nyquist theorem a signal must be sampled at a rate equal to twice that of the highest frequency, and also any component whose frequency is higher than the Nyquist rate will appear in the measurement as a lower frequency component - a factor known as "aliasing". This results from the where the actual values of the higher rate fall when the samples are taken. To avoid aliasing a low pass filter is placed ahead of the sampler to remove any unwanted high frequency elements. This filter must have a cut-off frequency which is less than half the sampling rate, although typically to provide some margin, the low pass filter cut-off frequency is at highest 2.5 times less than the sampling rate of the analyzer. In turn this determines the maximum frequency of operation of the overall FFT spectrum analyzer.
  • Sampling and analog to digital conversion:   In order to perform the analogue to digital conversion, two elements are required. The first is a sampler which takes samples at discrete time intervals - the sampling rate. The importance of this rate has been discussed above. The samples are then passed to an analogue to digital converter which produces the digital format for the samples that is required for the FFT analysis.
  • FFT analyzer:   With the data from the sampler, which is in the time domain, this is then converted into the frequency domain by the FFT analyzer. This is then able to further process the data using digital signal processing techniques to analyze the data in the format required.
  • Display:   With the power of processing it is possible to present the information for display in a variety of ways. Today's displays are very flexible and enable the information to be presented in formats that are easy to comprehend and reveal a variety of facets of the signal. The display elements of the FFT spectrum analyzer are therefore very important so that the information captured and processed can be suitably presented for the user.

More here:   http://bit.ly/2iaG3YZ