Data Translation likes growth in real-time data acquisition

Marlboro, MA—'In the 1990s, we were always known for data acquisition, imaging, including machine vision,' says Fred Molinari, president, founder and ceo of Data Translation, based here. The company still offers all of those technologies, but now is seeking to emphasize 'greater opportunities in real-time.'

By Control Engineering Staff February 18, 2003

Marlboro, MA— ‘In the 1990s, we were always known for data acquisition, imaging, including machine vision,’ says Fred Molinari, president, founder and ceo of Data Translation , based here. The company still offers all of those technologies, but now is seeking to emphasize ‘greater opportunities in real-time.’

He says, ‘We’ve pointed our future in real-time measurement and digital signal processing (DSP) software to help customers assemble systems that are complex, and make it simple to get information to people faster and better. Precise measurements can be delivered essentially immediately.’

The key to moving beyond the slow market of the past few years is to do what your good at, while waiting for the upturn, Mr. Molinari suggests. Many small companies, in part from spreading themselves too thin, are out of business, he adds.

Using a board-level solution for a real-time application, says Tim Ludy, Data Translation’s product marketing manager, allows users to bypass Microsoft Windows messaging and interrupts. A board also does away with the expense and upgrade challenges related to using a real-time operating system extension, he says. On a board, real-time means sub microsecond, perhaps 50-100 nanoseconds for a simple process. Data Translation’s real-time board, the DT9841 Fulcrum II Series, is floating point, 32-bit, with a 150-MHz clock rate. The board’s OS is DSP BIOS from Texas Instruments (TI), which can continue to run independently, if disconnected from the host OS. [More on the board, below.]

While Microsoft has extended NT support for another year, taking real-time capabilities from a separate board, already optimized for control logic, can save three to four years of development time for a company seeking to implement its own solution, Mr. Molinari says.

Mr. Ludy says related software is ‘easier to configure, through property page aspects, which eases integration issues. Communications are via USB, Firewire, and Ethernet protocols, which is essentially free access.’

Real-time board use continues to expand. Audi, for example, will increase on-automobile processors from 26 to 85 in the next few years, says Mr. Molinari. As for choosing the right board and set of features, Data Translation points to recent changes in product literature, which are designed to streamline and speed selection for an advanced user, and provide more application context for users with less experience.

More on DT9841
Among recent product introductions, DT9841 Fulcrum II Series was announced in October 2002 as an ‘intelligent data acquisition system for processing measurements that require the highest performance in real-time.’ As mentioned, the board combines accuracy of TI’s floating-point TMS3206711 digital signal processor (DSP) with the speed of 24-bit sigma delta A/D and D/A converters, eight separate A/D per channel on the input and two D/A on the output on a standard 6U card. It communicates to the host via USB 2.0.

The Fulcrum II Series builds on the success of the company’s Fulcrum I technology, in which customers used ISA PCs in embedded applications for vibration, signal analysis, and test and measurement. The Fulcrum I Series also used a TI DSP, the TI C40. Fulcrum II Series boards offered from Data Translation add high-performance analog circuitry with peripheral-rich C6711 DSPs giving ‘customers a complete off-the-shelf, real-time test and measurement system,’ says Martin Burgos, TI’s C67x product marketing manager. Buying a configured solution speeds time to market, he says.

DT9841 has A/D, D/A, D/IO, clock timer and trigger along with:

  • eight simultaneous channels of 24-bit sigma-delta A/D, 100kS/s, expandable to additional modules;

  • two simultaneous channels of 24-bit sigma-delta D/A, 100 kS/s, expandable to additional modules;

  • 24 lines of digital I/O: eight inputs, eight outputs and eight programmable as digital I/O and up to three counter timers with up/down capability and;

  • USB 2.0 support for ultra fast communications with the host and for the next-generation of peripherals that require processing speeds up to 480 Mbps.

Each A/D and D/A subsystem has its own high-speed pathway in and out of memory, so each can execute real-time measurements without processor intervention. The embedded C6711 DSP is software programmable, and can be used in a standalone or system test operation. It does not require host intervention because it comes with 2 Mbytes of flash memory for autonomous operation. As stated, the DSP bypasses Microsoft Windows’ latencies, allowing for high-speed uninterrupted data transfer.

The board comes in a single 6U card with standard connections for analog input, analog output, trigger and clock. Up to eight additional cards can be added via a LVDS communication port to expand channel count up to 64 simultaneous A/D input signals plus 16 D/A output signals.

DT9841 can be used by developers, programmers and high-level application software package users. The host software for DT9841 provides a means of installing and configuring it from the host; tools for downloading and executing DSP programs; an API for writing host programs to communicate with running DSP programs; an API for building utilities, diagnostics, etc.; and sample programs that use the two APIs.

Users can develop programs in TI’s Code Composer Studio Integrated Development Environment (IDE). In future versions, users will also be able to program using Data Translation’s test and measurement application environment, DT Measure Foundry.

More about TI’s real-time eXpressDSP software and development tools and free evaluation tools are available at .

DT9841’s board comes in two memory configurations: DT9841-128 with 128 MB of SDRAM and DT9841-64/2 with 64MB of SDRAM and 2 MB of Flash. DT9841 runs on Microsoft Windows 2000 and XP.

The DT9841 includes an extensive library of application examples and tutorials as well as online help. Data Translation provides complete technical support for all its products. Support and more about this and other products is available via Data Translation’s website at .

Data Translation Inc. calls itself ‘a world leader in the design, manufacture and marketing of high performance data acquisition, imaging, machine vision, and digital video hardware and software systems.’ Founded in 1973, the ISO 9001-certified company distributes in more than 40 countries and has subsidiaries in Germany and the U.K.

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Mark T. Hoske, editor-in-chief