One of the most common applications for AMETEK Programmable Power power sources is some kind of automatic test system. The California Instruments Asterion AC Series, for example, was designed to be used in commercial and military avionics test system, manufacturing and process control, and IEC standards test systems. It includes Ethernet, USB and RS232 standard control interfaces, and there is an optional IEEE-488 (GPIB) control interface available.
RS-232: While RS-232 ports are rarely found on personal computers these days, they are still found on many pieces of test equipment and are a viable option for controlling this equipment. Many industrial computers can still be outfitted with RS-232 ports, and personal computers can be connected to test equipment with RS-232 ports by using a Universal Serial Bus (USB) – RS232 adapter. Disadvantages include the ability to control only one device per port and relatively data rates (less than 20 kbytes/s).
Universal Serial Bus (USB): For many applications, engineers now use USB instead of RS232 for serial data connections. USB offers higher data rates than RS232, and you can connect up to 127 devices to a single port. USB links are easy to set up and use, especially in lab applications. If you plan to use a USB device in a factory or an industrial environment, be sure to purchase cables specifically designed for this use.
Ethernet LXI: More recently, engineers have begun to use Ethernet to connect test equipment to control computers. Test instruments that have an Ethernet port generally support the LAN eXtensions for Instrumentation, or LXI, standard. This standard is published by the LXI Consortium, a group comprised of all the top test and measurement equipment manufacturers. There are currently more than 3,500 certified LXI products, and that includes the Asterion AC Series, as well as other AMETEK Programmable Power products.
Because it's based on Ethernet technology, LXI systems not only offer high data rates, but very impressive connectivity. You can literally connect to instruments anywhere in the world. This makes LXI a good choice for systems where instruments are located far from the control computer, including remote applications.
IEEE 488 (GPIB): Designed by Hewlett Packard in the late 1960s, the IEEE 488 bus is arguably the original automatic test bus. Up to 15 instruments can be connected to its eight-bit parallel interface, and it has a maximum data rate on the order of 1 MHz. Despite its relatively low performance and being somewhat difficult to use, many legacy test systems still use the IEEE 488 interface.
In addition to choosing the interface that you'll use to control your Programmable Power power source, you'll need to specify an appropriate computer. In the lab, a desktop or laptop computer will work just fine. If your automatic test system is destined for the factory or some other harsh environment, you'll want to purchase a ruggedized industrial computer. These are made by many different manufacturers and will operate at more extreme temperatures and withstand mechanical shocks and vibrations better than consumer-grade PCs.