What Is PXI?

PXI is a rugged PC-based platform for measurement and automation systems. PXI combines PCI electrical-bus features with the modular, Eurocard packaging of CompactPCI and then adds specialized synchronization buses and key software features. PXI is both a high-performance and low-cost deployment platform for applications such as manufacturing test, military and aerospace, machine monitoring, automotive, and industrial test. Developed in 1997 and launched in 1998, PXI is an open industry standard governed by the PXI Systems Alliance (PXISA), a group of more than 70 companies chartered to promote the PXI standard, ensure interoperability, and maintain the PXI specification.

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Parts of a PXI System

Standard Chassis Types

As the backbone of your PXI system, the chassis provides the power, cooling, and communication buses of PCI and PCI Express for your controller and modules. PXI chassis are available in a variety of configurations such as low noise, high temperature, and low- to high-slot count. They also offer a range of I/O module slot types, integrated peripherals such as LCD displays, and more.

PXI Chassis

PXI Chassis are compatible with PXI, PXI Express, and PXI hybrid modules and meet the cooling requirements of the most power-demanding PXI modules. You can also choose chassis options that minimize the overall system acoustic emissions. Chassis can provide up to 18 slots, with a mixture of both PXI and PXI Express module compatibility, and you can choose between AC and DC power options.

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Chassis Features

PCI and PCI Express Communication

The PXI chassis provides the communication buses of PCI and PCI Express for your controller and modules. The PCI bus uses a shared bus topology where the theoretical 132 MB/s peak bandwidth is divided among multiple devices so the different devices on the bus can communicate. PCI Express provides a point-to-point bus topology, replacing the shared bus with a shared switch. This gives each device its own direct access to the bus, and thus its own dedicated data pipelines called lanes. You can group these lanes together to increase bandwidth to the slot to achieve up to 24 GB/s of throughput.

Timing and Synchronization

PXI builds on its CompactPCI architecture base by adding integrated timing and synchronization that is used to route synchronization clocks and triggers internally. A PXI chassis incorporates a dedicated 10 MHz system reference clock, PXI trigger bus, star trigger bus, and slot-to-slot local bus, while a PXI Express chassis adds a 100 MHz differential system clock, differential signaling, and differential star triggers to address the need for advanced timing and synchronization.

Power and Cooling

The PXI specification requires a minimum of 25 W of power be available to each peripheral slot, while the PXI Express specification requires a minimum of 30 W, with each slot being able to dissipate the same amount of heat. With these requirements, PXI is a modular instrumentation platform designed for high-performance applications.

Chassis | Controllers | Modules | Software


As defined by the PXI hardware specification, all PXI chassis contain a system controller slot in their leftmost location (slot 1). Controller options include high-performance embedded controllers with either a Microsoft Windows OS or a real-time OS (NI LabVIEW Real-Time) as well as remote controllers from a desktop, workstation, server, or laptop computer.

Embedded Controllers

With embedded controllers, there’s no need for an external PC. You have a complete system contained within the PXI chassis. Embedded controllers include standard features such as an integrated (multicore) CPU, hard drive, memory, Ethernet, video, serial, USB, and other peripherals. They are available for systems based on PXI or PXI Express, and you have your choice of OSs, including Windows or LabVIEW Real-Time.

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Remote Controllers

With PXI remote control kits, you can control PXI systems remotely from desktops, laptops, or server computers. PC control of PXI consists of a PCI/PCI Express board in your computer and a PXI/PXI Express module in slot 1 of your PXI system, connected by a copper or fiber-optic cable.

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Rack-Mount Controllers

Rack-mount controllers are optimized for controlling PXI systems. They feature high-performance multicore processors for intensive computation and multiple removable hard drives for high data storage capacity and high-speed streaming to disk.

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Chassis | Controllers | Modules | Software

Module Types

To meet your test or embedded application needs, you can choose from more than 450 NI modules including the following:


Controller area network (CAN) interfaces meet the physical and electrical requirements for in-vehicle automotive networks based on CAN.


These modules provide a variety of counting and timing measurements, including measuring a number of time-related quantities, counting events, or totalizing and measuring position with quadrature encoders.

Digital I/O

Digital I/O products can acquire and generate digital signals and patterns at multiple logic levels. You can characterize circuits, toggle control lines, and meet many other digital application needs.

Digital Multimeters

Optimized for automated test, these devices accurately measure voltage, resistance, current, capacitance, inductance, and temperature.


These devices feature unmatched versatility for both time and frequency domain applications. Along with standard oscilloscope measurements, you can use them as spectrum analyzers, transient recorders, ultrasonic receivers, and a multitude of other instruments.


FlexRay interfaces meet the physical and electrical requirements for in-vehicle automotive networks based on FlexRay, including support for both cold-start and normal applications.

Frame Grabbers

Frame grabbers acquire images from Camera Link, GigE Vision, IEEE 1394, and analog and parallel digital devices.


Connect to rack-and-stack instrumentation using the industry’s most popular instrument control standard.

Industrial Communication Buses

Handle remote measurement, industrial control, and data logging for a diverse set of sensors and actuators regardless of the environment or distance.

Local Interconnect Network (LIN)

These interfaces are for the low-cost, low-end multiplexed communication LIN bus standard in automotive networks.

Motion Control

You can use these modules for a variety of applications, ranging from simple single-axis control to distributed, synchronized multi-axis control.

Multifunction Data Acquisition

These devices offer analog I/O, digital I/O, and counter/timer circuitry. Ranging from low cost to high performance, they provide great value and ease of use.

FlexRIO Custom Instruments

These high-performance, reconfigurable instruments are powered by the LabVIEW FPGA Module. Solutions consist of FlexRIO FPGA Modules for PXI and adapter modules to add I/O to the field-programmable gate array (FPGA).

Power Supplies and Loads

Power Supplies and Loads products power devices under test (DUTs) such as RF power amplifiers and cellular handsets.

Source Measure Units (SMUs)

Source Measure Units are high-precision, high-accuracy DC instruments that can both source and simultaneously measure voltage and current.


One- to 16-port interfaces to RS232 and RS485 standards.

Sound and Vibration

Sound and Vibration products interface with microphones and accelerometers to acquire acoustic and vibration signals.

Spectrum and Signal Analyzers

Spectrum and Signal Analyzers measure electrical signals in the frequency domain.

Strain, Pressure, and Force

Strain, Pressure, and Force products measure signals from bridge-based sensors such as strain gages, load cells, and more.


This extensive line features matrix switches and multiplexers to general-purpose switches, RF switches, and relays.

Timing and Synchronization

These modules use and drive the trigger bus, star trigger, and system reference clock features of PXI to implement advanced multidevice synchronization.

Vector Signal Transceivers (VSTs)

Vector Signal Transceivers combine a vector signal generator, vector signal analyzer, and user-programmable FPGA into one device.

Waveform Generators

Waveform Generators produce large, complex analog waveforms in a sequential manner or using real-time streaming.

Wireless Design and Test

Design, prototype, and test wireless products and technologies.

Third-Party PXI Modules

Complete your PXI system with more than 1,500 modules and products from more than 70 vendors. Products include boundary scan, mass interconnects, and avionic bus interfaces .

Browse a list of third-party products in the NI PXI Community

Chassis | Controllers | Modules | Software


National Instruments provides a comprehensive suite of software options to simplify the development of your PXI system. These include high-performance drivers with flexible and intuitive high-level APIs optimized for the most popular application development environments (for example, LabVIEW, NI LabWindows™/CVI, and Visual Studio). Soft front panels and configuration software are also provided to facilitate the setup and interactive control of your instruments.


LabVIEW is an intuitive graphical programming environment that helps you quickly develop powerful test software. With compatibility for thousands of instruments and technologies such as multicore and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), you can develop high-performance automated test systems.

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NI LabWindows/CVI

LabWindows/CVI is a proven ANSI C integrated development environment that provides you with a comprehensive set of programming tools for creating test and control applications. LabWindows/CVI combines the longevity and reusability of ANSI C with engineering-specific functionality designed for instrument control, data acquisition, analysis, and user interface development.

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Develop your automated test and validation systems faster with NI TestStand, a powerful ready-to-run test management environment. You can use NI TestStand to develop, manage, and execute test sequences written in any programming language as well as to facilitate integration with enterprise systems.

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NI VeriStand is a run-time editable software environment for configuring real-time testing applications that include I/O interfaces, triggering, monitoring, simulation-backed stimulus generation, and alarm condition response.

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The mark LabWindows is used under a license from Microsoft Corporation. Windows is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and other countries.

Chassis | Controllers | Modules | Software