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The PXIe-54x3 Arbitrary Waveform Generator Family


The new PXIe-5413, PXIe-5423, and PXIe-5433 arbitrary waveform generators deliver -92 dB of spurious-free dynamic range and 435 fs integrated system jitter while providing precise waveform adjustment when used with a dedicated standard waveform generation engine. With a new fractional resampling architecture for arbitrary waveform generation, similar dynamic range and jitter performance is available independent of user sample rate. Users also benefit from the high-speed waveform streaming capabilities and multiple-instrument synchronization synonymous with PXI.

Key features of the PXIe-54x3 arbitrary waveform generators include:
  • One or two 16-bit channels updated at 800 MS/s with 20, 40, and 80 MHz bandwidth
  • Maximum ±12 V and minimum ± 7.75 mV output ranges
  • Up to 34 channels to build parallel, high-channel-count systems in a single PXI chassis
  • Waveform sequencing and streaming with a PCI Express x4 Gen 1 link


Figure 1. The PXIe-5413, PXIe-5423, and PXIe-5433 offer 1- and 2-channel options as well as 20, 40, and 80 MHz maximum sine wave bandwidth variants.







20 MHz

40 MHz

80 MHz

DAC Resolution; Update Rate

16-bit; 800 MS/s

16-bit; 800 MS/s

16-bit; 800 MS/s

Max. User-Programmable Arbitrary Waveform

200 MS/s

200 MS/s

400 MS/s Filter On
250 MS/s Filter Off









128 MB

256 MB

128 MB

256 MB

512 MB

1 GB

Max. Voltage

±6 V into 50 Ω

±12 V into High-Z

±6 V into 50 Ω

±12 V into High-Z

±6 V into 50 Ω

±12 V into High-Z

Arbitrary Sequence and Frequency List Modes




Scripting and Streaming





Table 1. NI offers a range of arbitrary waveform generators to meet the needs of many types of automated test systems.


PXIe-54x3 Waveform Generator Analog Performance

Modern engineering challenges require increasing signal fidelity and accuracy. PXIe-54x3 instruments use one or two independent, 16-bit digital-to-analog converters (DACs) to generate signals with excellent sine wave flatness throughout the passband. The built-in digital filtering of these waveform generators provides pure, smooth signals with an option to forgo frequency-domain purity for faster rise times and time-domain signal behavior.

Sine Wave Flatness Performance

PXI Waveform Generators include flatness calibration that results in accurate sine wave performance to the full bandwidth of the device. Whereas traditional devices often have a characteristic roll-off approaching the stated instrument bandwidth, PXIe-54x3 arbitrary waveform generators correct for the roll-off to provide consistent performance over frequency.

Figure 2. PXI Waveform Generators are designed to generate sine signals with flat amplitude throughout the instrument’s passband.


Digital Filtering

The datapath of PXI-54x3 arbitrary waveform generators features digital filtering designed to remove unwanted frequency images from the generated signal in arbitrary generation mode that is not available in other modes. With many arbitrary waveform generators, frequency images of the generated signal occur at multiples of the programmed sample rate. When the filter is enabled, the bandwidth of the output signal is limited and the images are removed, which results in purer, cleaner output signals. The only drawback is that the slew rate of any large changes in signal amplitude is reduced because high-frequency components of the signal are removed. You can disable the filtering so the high-frequency contents are included in the signal, which results in the output voltage changing as fast as possible between samples in user-programmed waveforms.


Figure 3. The hardware architecture of PXIe-54x3 arbitrary waveform generators enables excellent analog performance as well as independent channel generation, waveform streaming, and multi-instrument synchronization.


NI-FGEN Instrument Driver

NI PXI Waveform Generators are programmed with the NI-FGEN driver, which includes a best-in-class API that works with a variety of development options such as LabVIEW, C, and C#. To ensure long-term interoperability of waveform generators, the NI-FGEN driver API is the same API used for all past and current NI waveform generators. The driver also provides access to help files, documentation, and dozens of ready-to-run shipping examples you can use as a starting point for your application as well as an interactive soft front panel for full out-of-the-box functionality. Download the NI-FGEN Driver.


Figure 4. The NI-FGEN driver has been used to program the newest PXI waveform generators for three decades with consistent function usage and compatibility.


This interactive soft front panel includes standard function and arbitrary waveform output from file. You can also further configure the instrument by adjusting the settings for triggering source and mode, amplitude, offset, and frequency. In addition, you can reset, calibrate, and self-test the instrument during troubleshooting.

Figure 5. The NI-FGEN soft front panel allows you to generate waveforms quickly and features controls for waveform type, amplitude, and frequency as well as advanced settings like trigger routing.


Fractional Resampling

PXIe-54x3 arbitrary waveform generators output all waveforms, including standard and arbitrary waveforms, with a DAC update rate of 800 MS/s. An algorithm implemented on the Xilinx Kintex-7 FPGA is used to up-sample user-defined arbitrary waveforms. The maximum rate allowed for arbitrary waveforms uploaded to the PXIe-5413 and PXIe-5423 is 200 MS/s. The PXIe-5433 can accept user-defined waveforms up to 400 MS/s when the digital filter is enabled and 250 MS/s when it is disabled. Increasing the sample rate in an arbitrary waveform can improve the time-domain performance by delivering faster slew rates and smoother waveform behavior. Additional samples can significantly improve frequency-domain purity by smoothing point-to-point transitions and eliminating frequency images.


Automated Test Features

The PXI instrumentation platform was created to serve automated test with fast data buses and multi-instrument triggering. The PXIe-54x3 waveform generators expand on these built-in PXI features with independent generation engines in each multichannel instrument and a frequency list mode for fast execution of frequency sweeps.

Figure 6. You can couple PXIe-54x3 waveform generators with any of NI’s 600 PXI modules or the 1500 PXI modules available from nearly 60 vendors to make smarter test systems


Independent Generation Engines and Sequencing

When using PXI-54x3 arbitrary waveform generators, note that each channel has a separate generation engine producing the output signal. This provides a distinct advantage over other 2-channel instruments that may have only one engine.

If an instrument has only one engine, its channels must share much of their configuration and execution. For example, the two channels of a waveform generator with one engine would potentially need to share triggers, markers, and engine events. By having two separate engines in the waveform generator, each channel can have its own configuration for triggers and markers and even waveform scripts. With the PXIe-54x3 arbitrary waveform generators, only the reference clock source and specific hardware resources must be shared. For example, the two engines must share the only external PFI trigger input, but PXI offers many internal system triggers, so engines don’t have to share those.

Most importantly, the channels of a waveform generator with two separate generation engines can start and stop generating signals completely independently of one another. This feature can ultimately result in higher channel density or fewer PXI slots being used in a test system. Some applications require multiple, independently operating channels. If your waveform generator does not have independent generation engines, your application may require two devices and, therefore, two PXI slots.


Frequency List Mode

You can use Frequency List mode to quickly step through a predefined list of frequency values of the standard function mode and create frequency hopping and sweeping. This helps you take the host software out of the process and allows you to advance the list by using digital triggers or hardware-timed internal counters. The Frequency List mode engine adjusts the frequency in a phase-continuous manner. Because of this phase continuity, you can put together a sweep by creating a series of small steps with hardware counter timing. By using this feature, you can significantly reduce the time of tests involving a series of standard function generations without having to create arbitrary waveform sequences.

Figure 7. Software-based PXI test systems shorten time to market, increase test throughput, and decrease the overall cost of test. Modular instrumentation allows you to right-size test capability and take advantage of scheduled technology insertions to future-proof test systems.


Key Application Areas

PXI Waveform Generators are built on the open, modular PXI architecture that lowers the cost of test and shortens the time to market for devices in many industries, including aerospace/defense, transportation, and semiconductor.


Aerospace and Transportation Test

PXIe-54x3 arbitrary waveform generators have a voltage swing of 24 Vpp into high-impedance loads and generate many types of signals accurately and precisely. This large voltage swing and accurate signal representation allow the waveform generators to stimulate and simulate numerous sensors and subsystems used in aircraft and vehicles.

The PXIe-5413, PXIe-5423, and PXIe-5433 are all programmed using the NI-FGEN instrument driver, the same instrument driver used by multiple previous generations of PXI waveform generators. The consistent use of this instrument driver lowers the effort involved in performing technology insertions with this new generation of instruments.


Semiconductor Test

PXI-54x3 arbitrary waveform generators offer several features ideal for semiconductor validation and production test. These flexible instruments provide a large output voltage range with many voltage range steps and an ability to generate frequency- and time-domain waveforms truly and accurately.

Flexible instruments that address many parts save space in test heads and lower the capital cost of testers. Two-channel versions of the PXIe-54x3 waveform generators have independent engines, so each test site of an automated validation test system or semiconductor production ATE can be addressed and execute independently.

PXI was designed to enable synchronization and triggering between all or subsets of instruments within and between PXI chassis. The ability to hardware trigger between instruments can significantly reduce the execution time of test sequences and deliver overall shorter test times.


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