Interview: The Future of Data Acquisition Interview: The Future of Data Acquisition

QuantumX: The third generation of the DAQ revolution

HBK continues to set new trends in data acquisition with QuantumX. Following its tenth anniversary in 2018, the data acquisition system is now in its third generation. In this interview, measurement and testing technology expert Christof Salcher explains why QuantumX and its ruggedized variant SomatXR have been so successful.

With QuantumX, HBK revolutionized conventional solutions for data acquisition, test automation and analysis. With universal channels, the distributed system approach, high-precision digitization, parallel real time and unique openness, QuantumX and SomatXR have become the industry standard.

Christof Salcher, Product Manager HBK

Christof Salcher is a graduate of The Technical University of Munich. He has a diploma in electrical engineering and information technology, with focus on measurement, control, automation and robotics.

Since 2007, he has worked as HBM’s International Product Manager/Product Owner in the test and measurement domain, designing overall measurement solutions for lab, bench and mobile testing, focusing on structural integrity, performance, efficiency, thermal durability, functionality and multi-physics analysis of a wide range of products cross-industry.

QuantumX is a modular system, solving the most complex measurement tasks in a very flexible way. How did you come up with this idea?


"Ten years ago, measurement electronics had only limited flexibility, were unwieldy and expensive. At the time, HBM only had a single data acquisition system in its product line, the MGCplus. With over 25,000 installed systems in the market, the MGCplus is still working and selling successfully. Simply search the internet for MGCplus – it is synonymous with measurement technology.

An astonishing number of HBM patents are associated with this system. But the system also had its limits and it was time to push beyond them. The new system had to have the character of a flexible tool. So, we launched QuantumX to the market as the Swiss army knife of measurement technology. Ten years and 30,000 modules later, QuantumX and its ruggedized version SomatXR have developed into much more than that." 

What characterizes a flexible tool for challenging tasks in a test and measurement environment?


"We studied the individual workflows of our customers, looking for a way to boost efficiency. We wanted to bring about a paradigm change – away from the permanently installed tool and towards an efficient one with daily-changing setups.

The format of the new system should be small and portable, accessing as many applications as possible. It should be installed close to the sensor to ensure shorter cable lengths, giving high quality measurement results in distributed mode. Changing requirements would be resolved with built-in functionality. It should be possible to integrate any measurement and any sensor you want quickly.

To further optimize our customers’ workflow, we paired the resulting demand for universal inputs with TEDS technology, where an electronic data sheet in the sensor or plug, combined with universal channels, increases the efficiency of automatic channel setup by around 70%. Of course, QuantumX was intended to be a reference point in terms of accuracy and precision and in no way inferior to the globally established MGCplus.

Another factor of course was the growing demand for higher dynamics. Machinery was becoming more dynamic and electrified. The signal bandwidths and sample rates should therefore fully encompass the vibroacoustic range, allow rotational analysis and be able to handle transient jobs with adequate resolution.

It was already apparent at the time that more and more measurement and testing tasks needed to run automatically and in combination with simulation models (today called ‘digital twin’) so that typical field and mobile test and measurement tasks would become reproducible and repeatable in a lab, or on a bench. Therefore, we needed to offer real-time integration into the emerging Ethernet-based fieldbuses, which, in 2008, were unique. However, in parallel with automation, measurement specialists, taking care of the test specimens, wanted to analyse their data whereas the test bench operator took care of the bench and its safety. And that is how the modular QuantumX came about, module by module, from one application to the next, always investigating the latest technical possibilities and their respective benefits for the user."

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Has the QuantumX increased productivity?


"Yes, it has. Some customers say up to 70% time reduction. Our customers enjoy working with it, trying things out, testing and analysing with the typical HBK measurement quality and reliability, and experiencing a completely new level of flexibility and freedom. So yes, QuantumX is synonymous with flexibility and productivity.

In 2008, we set new standards in the market with QuantumX MX840. Suddenly, there was a device with universal channels, which was easy to handle, portable, accurate, dynamic and less expensive than other solutions! In fact, the modern MX840B is still used for many great applications and with software that is continuously developed. That is true investment protection."

Which new trends set the individual steps of evolution and when did they occur?


"In 2015, during the second stage of the device evolution– the so called B platform – we added some essential components to the modules, such as Precision Time Protocol (PTP) or IEEE1588:2008 for time synchronization of multiple devices in Ethernet-based networks. We also offered decimal sample rates as an alternative. We wanted to further improve our flagship MX840B and increase its functional scope and performance while lowering energy consumption. We introduced the most modern bridge amplifier in the world which has already overtaken the universal amplifier in numbers already.

And with our new high-performance data recorder CX22B-W we literally set new standards in mobile testing and recording where users keep on working with the same software on a standard PC, and which from day one offered maximum functionality and reliability.

The 'better Quantum' should also be mentioned. SomatXR is our ultra-rugged test and measurement system for use in harsh environmental testing but also increasingly on test benches

In retrospective, this second stage was a very important harmonizing step, and came just at the right time. The main benefit of PTP and decimal sample rates is for synchronizing measuring devices from HBK or other manufacturers, with high precision and a time resolution in the sub-microsecond range. This simplifies the integration and analysis of measured data – all measurement points can be assigned at the same time and in a best-case scenario there is only a single data set."

The third stage of evolution, QuantumX CX27C, the MX471C, the MX403B, and the MX809B happened just in time for its tenth anniversary in 2018. What’s new?


"The C platform can be seen as setting the pace for performance. It is essential to handle higher data rates for mobile testing in vehicles and for test bench use.

First, there is a trend towards compressing multiple tests into one. Customers want a single system for many different tests allowing hundreds of acquired measurement signals, which they can monitor and control in real time while specifically simulating missing parts in lab testing. Second, networking of vehicle electronics is moving more and more from traditional CAN, through CAN-FD and automotive Ethernet-based vehicle buses.

The QuantumX CX27C module is the first member of the QuantumX family to have a very powerful and low-energy System-on-Chip (SoC) architecture. This new platform allows customers to integrate rapidly recorded data into whatever digital bus they choose, namely EtherCAT, PROFINET, Ethernet or new xCP-on-Ethernet.

The MX471C is the new flagship in CAN/CAN FD communication and allows you to acquire signals from modern vehicle buses synchronously, freely scalable to x-amount of ports, allowing xCP-on-CANFD signals to be acquired directly from selected ECUs. It also serves as a gateway from all analog acquired signals to CAN or CAN FD busses.

As a result, we were able to increase the modules’ performance by a factor of 12. Of course, the module is compatible with all modules of the QuantumX family since 2008.

In parallel, we also established QuantumX in the upcoming electrifying powertrains of the world with high performance batteries or fuel cells, inverters and electric drives with MX809B measuring temperature with any thermocouple or cell voltage with an isolation up to 2400 V, and MX403B measuring voltage and current directly at a battery.

Now the product series covers all engineering domains and work in hundreds of applications."

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How about openness and connectivity?


"From the very beginning, we have emphasized that we want to offer an open eco-system and encouraged integration on all levels. We actively approached possible partners and encouraged integration into a wide range of different software packages or real-time systesms. This includes programs such as LabVIEW/NXG, Visual Studio .NET, DIAdem, CANape, DASYlab, InNova, IPEmotion, jBeam, mlab and many others. Our commitment was and still is to offer the most efficient and comprehensive solution with our own software, but not to place any obstacles in the way of customers if they have already chosen another software package. But, of course, the best workflow comes with our own very successful software, catman, with over 16,000 licenses currently running. The penetration rate of catmanAP or Enterprise in systems with a high number of channels has grown enormously and is currently at 90% of all sold systems, which confirms our commitment."

In retrospect, what makes you proud?


"During all those years we haven’t had a single issue we couldn’t fix right away. We have the best and most motivated engineers and testers working in an agile way on the platform and who work well together with our PC software group. I am very proud of working with all these inspiring people in my career, and who basically designed this best-of-class product.
Customers love the QuantumX system for its ease-of-use and quality. It is THE reference platform for HBK, the best-seller – I am very proud of it, everyone in the company is. So, mission accomplished, but not saying that this is the end. The new module, QuantumX MXFS is another milestone, pulling Fiber Bragg-based measurement technology into the platform. And there will be a next generation coming for sure."

Multi-functional and specialist devices

The QuantumX family

  • With their universal channels, QuantumX MX840B, MX440B and MX410B, with low-latency voltage outputs, are true multi-functional devices – all typical transducers and sensors can be connected.
  • MX460B acquires rotational speed, torque, angle, absolute position, displacement and PWM in general – precisely, highly dynamically and with no loss.
  • For measurement tasks with numerous measurement channels, the QuantumX family offers the MX1615B strain gauge bridge amplifier, the MX1609B standard amplifier and the MX1609 temperature modules with RFID-based TEDS technology.
  • MX430B and MX238B enable the highest precision in measurements of full bridge strain gauge-based force, torque and pressure transducers – for applications such as wind tunnels, gas turbine testing, centre of gravity, sensor calibration and many more.
  • The two QuantumX modules MX809B and MX403B stand for verifiable maximum safety for measurements in a high-voltage environment.

Integrating modules, saving data

  • The QuantumX data recorder CX22B-W collects, evaluates and saves measurement, signal, position and camera data, completely independently. The results can be transferred directly or via WLAN.
  • QuantumX MX471C allows for synchronous acquisition of CAN/FD signals and sending analog measured values via CAN/FD to the test bench control unit or data logger.


Integrating in real-time

  • The CX27C QuantumX-Gateway incorporates the measurement system into real-time buses like PROFINET and EtherCAT, thereby ensuring complete integration into automated testing systems. Also, it supports ASAM standardized xCP-on-Ethernet allowing the integration of QuantumX / SomatXR into ECU calibration tools from Vector, dSPACE or ETAS.
  • QuantumX MX878B and MX879B can input signals in real-time, generate stimuli or simply output acquired signal values directly as voltage signal. This makes it easy to control small test benches.