Consolidating Lab Instruments with NI VirtualBench

The tech-sector is the hottest its been in over a decade, allowing companies to pour more money into R&D and expansion. Advancements in technology have allowed devices to be made smaller, faster and more efficient. Smartphones, for example, have replaced cameras, calculators, flash-lights and even relationship dynamics! But that’s a different discussion entirely.

In any event, it appears more and more companies like National Instruments are succeeding in tech-consolidation. NI is finally attempting to enter the manual lab bench-top instrument market by creating a single consolidated device – the VirtualBench. This post is not to give an in-depth review of the instrument (as I don’t currently have my hands on one), but more of a high-level overview of the device and what it encompasses.

Dilbert Product

 The VirtualBench combines multiple bench-top instruments into a single device – all-in with a $1995 price-tag (USD). Purchasing all devices separately, NI claims a cost-savings of $3945 USD, as they state each bench instrument  purchased separately would total $5340 USD.

Without any further delay, let’s check out what’s inside:

VirtualBench Diagram

 

Mixed-Signal Oscilloscope
Bandwidth 100 MHz
Channels 2 analog, 34 digital
Sampling Rate 1 GS/s (single channel), 500 MS/s/ch (dual channel)
Waveform Measurements cursors, 22 automatic measurements
Waveform Math add, subtract, multiply, FFT
Record Length 1 million samples
Function Generator
Max Frequency 20 MHz (sine), 5 MHz (square)
Channels 1
Waveform Types sine, square, ramp, triangle, DC
Digital Multimeter
Resolution 5 ½ digits
Measurement Functions VDC, VAC, IDC, IAC, continuity, resistance, diode
Max Voltage 300 V max input voltage
Max Current 10 A max input current
Basic Accuracy up to 0.015% VDC
Programmable DC Power Supply
Channels 3
Voltage/Current (Ch1) 0 to +6 V/0 to 1 A
Voltage/Current (Ch2) 0 to +25 V/0 to 0.5 A
Voltage/Current (Ch3) 0 to -25 V/0 to 0.5 A
Digital I/O
Channels 8 (input or output)
Logic Level 5 V compatible LVTTL input, 3.3 V LVTTL output  

It’s clearly limited in terms of number of DIO (8 inputs or outputs) and the 5.5 digit DMM resolution. It seems more practical as a laboratory bench-top instrument rather than a product that can be incorporated into a test system itself. Furthermore, it would be interesting to see if a tablet will reside anywhere near this device in practical applications!

I can also see many use-cases for this device:

  • Laboratories
  • Universities
  • Small-scale functional test systems
  • Debug tool for test systems on the field
  • Home or personal use.

I haven’t been able to find any information regarding API and software interfaces available, but I’m sure it will include LabVIEW libraries and either DLLs or .NET Assemblies to hook into. This will allow simple test automation if one wishes to use this device to automate test systems. Depending on test application, I can see this being extremely competitive in terms of value.

This product is expected to be on demo at NI Week this August in Austin, Texas August 3-7. It’s highly probable that I will also be making an appearance there, so I’ll be sure to check it out and find out more detailed information. Will keep you all posted!

Disclaimer: We are in no way received remuneration nor commission for reviewing the product described in this article.

Consolidating Lab Instruments with NI VirtualBench was last modified: July 1st, 2014 by Paulo R

Comments

  1. Very cool gadget

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