Advanced Features of High-Speed Digital I/O Devices: Timing

Overview

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In digital communication, timing is the most essential element. Any kind of violation to timing could cause you to transmit or receive incorrect data. As instruments and communication rates get faster, timing becomes even more vital, as even the smallest of changes in edges (in the pico-second range), could cause incorrect tests and communication failures. In the following paragraphs, discover the timing rates and capabilities of National Instruments high-speed digital devices. Some high-speed digital devices use the direct digital synthesis (DDS) clock for a high resolution on clock frequencies. This paper also explores features such as frequency ranges and resolution, importing and exporting clocks and triggers, and advanced synchronization techniques.

Contents

In the following paragraphs, discover the timing rates and capabilities of National Instruments high-speed digital devices. Some high-speed digital devices use the direct digital synthesis (DDS) clock for a high resolution on clock frequencies. This paper also explores features such as frequency ranges and resolution, importing and exporting clocks and triggers, and advanced synchronization techniques.

Device

Maximum

Rate (MHz)

Maximum Data

Rate (Mbps)

NI 6541 50 50
NI 6542 100 100
NI 6544 100 100
NI 6545 200 200
NI 6547 100 200 1
NI 6548 200 300-400 2
NI 6551 50 50
NI 6552 100 100
NI 6561 100 200 1
NI 6562 200 400 1

1 These rates are obtained through the use of double data rate (DDR).

2 These rates are obtained through the use of double data rate (DDR). The maximum data rate is determined by the logic family or selectable voltage level used.

Table 1. HSDIO Device Maximum Sampling Rates

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Sharing the Clock

Sharing a sample clock is essential when using NI digital devices in a test environment. To fully facilitate clock sharing, NI digital devices have several methods of exporting and importing clocks.

Sample Clock

Most NI digital devices provide a single high-precision 200 MHz voltage-controlled crystal oscillator (VCXO) clock source. The exceptions to this are the NI  PXIe-6544/5/7/8 devices, which provide a single high-precision 800 MHz voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO) clock source that is sent through a DDS circuit. All NI digital devices have an onboard phase-locked loop (PLL) circuit, which lets you phase-lock the onboard clock to the reference clock, if one is provided.

Based on the form factor of the digital instrument you use, you can share the clock in multiple ways.  All NI digital devices can import a sample clock through the CLK IN front panel SMB jack connector. This external clock can be any sine or square wave signal that meets the specifications of the particular digital device. PXI devices can also use the PXI_STAR line as an external frequency input channel, giving you the ability to provide an alternate frequency as the sample clock rate.

The clock of a NI digital instrument can also be exported from the CLK OUT front panel SMB or the DDC CLK OUT pin on the DDC connector. The exported sample clock is generated at the logic family voltage levels specified for dynamic generation.

Reference Clock

The onboard frequency generator on NI devices uses a PLL circuit to lock the high-frequency internal time base of the device to a known reference frequency. The most common clock to which the NI device is locked is the reference clock signal on the PXI or PXI Express chassis backplane. This clock signal is shared among all modules in the system, so you can lock all the modules in your system to this stable clock. PXI_CLK10 is the 10 MHz reference signal that is available for PXI devices, and PXIe_CLK100 is the 100 MHz reference signal that is available for PXI Express devices.

NI PCI digital devices can still share a reference clock using the RTSI 7 line on the RTSI bus, allowing for synchronization of multiple PCI devices.

Strobe

The STROBE channel on the DDC connector is a dedicated channel for the STROBE signal. You can use STROBE only for acquisition sessions.

Designed for use in source-synchronous data transfer applications, the data channels are sampled precisely on a user-selected edge (programmable as rising or falling edge) of the STROBE signal, when configured as the sample clock. The advantage of using STROBE as the sample clock source signal for the acquisition operation is that the acquisition session sample clock and the data channels now travel together through the same cable and system delays, maintaining time correlation between them.

NI digital devices have only one onboard clock, so usually generation and acquisition sessions on the same NI device must use the same sample clock rate. However, with STROBE as the clock for acquisition operations, generation and acquisition operations can use two different time bases.

Events and Triggers

NI digital devices use events and triggers to synchronize generation and acquisition tasks between devices. Triggers are used to control the acquisition or generation of a digital device, while events are used as notifications of specific operations.

Triggers Events
Start Trigger Data Active Event
Reference Trigger Marker Event
Advance Trigger Ready for Start Event
Pause Trigger Ready for Advance Event
Script Trigger End of Record Event
Stop Trigger2 Sample Error Event

Table 2: HSDIO Device Triggers and Events

2 The stop trigger is valid only for generation sessions and available only for the NI PXIe-6545.

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Determining Valid Frequencies

When choosing a sampling rate, it is important to realize that most NI digital devices use the divide down method for determining valid sample rates. This is done by taking the onboard clock and dividing it by an integer. The exceptions to this are the NI PXIe-6544/6/7/8 devices, which use a different method of clock division. These devices use direct digital synthesis (DDS), allowing a larger range of valid clock frequencies.

Figure 1: Divide Down versus DDS

 

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Conclusion

It is important to understand all timing considerations for a HSDIO task. By understanding the options in the use of sample clocks, reference clocks, triggers, and events, you can create a fully operational digital application. Also, by using the DDS capability of the NI PXIe-6544/5/7/8 devices you can take advantage of a greater range of frequencies, increasing the flexibility of these NI digital devices.

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