The Building Block data acquisition system

In areas where critical operational data needs to be recorded in a fast and reliable way, Building Blocks can be used to build a system according to specific customer needs.

Why is high-speed Data Acquisition fundamental?

Rapid industrial development makes facilities and equipment rely more and more on electric signals as a source of power and information, with subsequent issues regarding evaluation, test, and compliance. Optimization of these systems, along with predictive maintenance, requires reliable Data Acquisition at increased sampling rates, especially when looking at fast transients in electrical parameters such as voltage spikes and higher harmonic currents.

Monitoring mechanical parameters, converted into electrical inputs at increased sampling rates (such as High-Frequency Impulse Measurement), can be extremely useful for performance analysis and early detection of anomalies.

The drawbacks of developing a system from the start

Besides the need for high-speed DAQ, every application naturally has its own particular requirements. When developing a system from scratch, the overall budget is affected by the lengthy R&D process and debugging period, the reduced reliability of newly designed systems, the potential problems with EMC, and the related certification.

The answer: the Building Block data acquisition system 

The robust design of the modular Building Block data acquisition system, developed by Instrumentation Technologies with proprietary IP, provides a series of standardized, tested, and certified bricks. The Building Blocks are fully tested and EMC certified.

Each module has a series of individual, isolated inputs, capable of reading a range of different types of analog electric signals and sample them at rates up to 1GS/s at 12 or a maximum of 16 bits.

The basic layout of the Building Blocks system consists of a Basic Unit, a DAQ Unit, a Communication Unit (sending data into the system or uploading it onto a cloud server), and a Backplane Unit which connects the individual units. As such, there is no real limit to the number of input signals. For high volumes of input signals, the possibility exists to integrate the Building Blocks into a monolith.

On top of the Building Blocks assembly, a second layer is added to provide the customized configuration. This is done, using dedicated or adapted software, and includes settings for sample rates, time- or event-based triggering, post-processing, FFT analysis, alarm signals, and time window size, among others. This allows the supply of customized systems, minimizing R&D time and shortening the commissioning and debugging phase, with subsequent cost reduction, as well as shorter delivery times.

The Building Blocks system has been designed to operate in rugged conditions, at operating temperatures ranging from -40° to +85°C, with class IP54 protection, allowing it to work in relative humidity levels up to 95% (non-condensing). Input voltages are a standard 12 Vdc to 36 Vdc range, with a tolerance of -10 to +15%, or 48 V PoE. In case of power failure, the Building Block’s built-in UPS takes over and prevents loss of valuable information.

The number of input signals is virtually unlimited, just a matter of adding more Building Blocks where needed. What the unit does afterward with the input signal can be entirely adapted, for example using lower frequency-sampling and use the longer time-window to store data in the local GB-range RAM. Where necessary, especially for analysis of electric fast transients, the customer can also select high-frequency sampling, and use the full system capacity up to 1GS/s. In the case of the latter, the time window will be drastically reduced, requiring continuous use of one of the interfaces (USB, Ethernet or external antennas) to send the data for external storage, either physical or cloud-based. Easy remote access to the unit is also possible through the same interfaces.

Triggering the sampling when required is another important aspect of DAQ and data size management. This to avoid unnecessarily big data files with irrelevant information, bringing along a waste of processing and analysis time. According to the specific needs, sampling can be triggered on a time basis, but also by events, such as single thresholds or a set of conditions, setting off sampling on the signals of choice. Pre-trigger delays can be separately configured as well.

The use of robust standard software guarantees flexibility and user-friendliness during this task, either via API-level software support or using a graphical control user interface, based on LabVIEW. This allows in-depth analysis of fast transients, as well as long-term monitoring of slow phenomena, to enhance predictive failure recognition.