QuantumX: The third generation of the DAQ revolution

HBM continues to set new trends in data acquisition with the QuantumX. On its tenth anniversary, the data acquisition system is on its third generation of devices. Measurement technology expert Christof Salcher explains the reasons for this success in an interview.

HBM revolutionized conventional solutions in analysis and testing with QuantumX. With universal channels, the distributed system approach, high-precision digitization, parallel real time and unique openness, QuantumX from HBM has become the standard in the market.

Christof Salcher, Product Manager for QuantumX

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

Since 2007 he has worked as HBM’s International Product Manager / Product Owner in the test & measurement domain, designing overall solutions for durability, functionality and performance testing.

QuantumX: A modular system for solving the most complex measurement tasks in a very flexible way. How did this idea come about?

Salcher:

"Ten years ago, measurement electronics had only limited flexibility, was unwieldy and expensive. At the time, HBM had a data acquisition system in its product line, MGCplus, which is still the standard today for measuring devices with local operation. Simply look on the internet for MGCplus – it is synonymous with measurement technology.

An astonishing number of HBM patents are associated with this system. But it also has its limits and it was time to push beyond them. A new, additional measurement system was needed to meet customer requirements that were technologically feasible despite customers not yet even being aware of them. It was to be a great step forward and it should have the character of a flexible tool. Thus, we introduced the QuantumX, calling it the Swiss army knife of measurement technology throughout its launch into the market. After 10 years, QuantumX has developed into much more than that." 

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

Salcher:

"We studied the individual work steps of our customers, hunting 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.

The structure of the new system should be small and portable to access as many applications as possibl. It should be installed close to the sensor to allow for distributable use. There should be no need for conversion when changing tasks. It should be possible to integrate a completely new measurand and thus any sensor desired. To further optimize our customers' work steps, we paired the resulting demand for universal measurement channels with TEDS chip technology. The electronic data sheet in the sensor or plug, combined with universal channels, increases efficiency enormously. Of course QuantumX was intended to be a reference point in terms of accuracy and precision and in no way inferior to the larger MGCplus. Another factor of course was the growing demand for higher dynamics. Machines were becoming more dynamic and the signal bandwidths and sample rates should therefore fully encompass the vibro-acoustic range, allow for rotation analysis and be able to handle transient processes with high resolution.

It was already apparent at the time that more and more measurement tasks that accompany development would be running automatically – and thus reproducibly and repeatedly – to test real field applications as early and in as much depth as possible. Therefore, we needed to offer real-time integration into the emerging Ethernet-based fieldbuses. In parallel with automation, however, users were already asking to delve deeper into analysing the measured data of the test specimen. There were hundreds of proposed requirements that had to be classified and prioritized. And that is how the QuantumX modular system came to be, module by module, from one application to the next, and always taking into consideration the technical possibilities."

Has the QuantumX increased productivity?

Salcher:

"Yes it has. Our customers enjoy working with it, trying things out, testing and analyzing with the measurement quality they are used to and with unprecedented high flexibility. So yes, QuantumX is synonymous with flexibility and productivity.

In 2008, we set new standards in the market with the QuantumX MX840 - Suddenly there was a device with universal channels, easy to handle, portable, accurate, dynamic, and even less expensive compared to other solutions! In fact, it can still be used for many great applications today, and with software that is continuously developed. This is true investment protection."

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

Salcher:

In the second stage of evolution – 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 and second decimal sample rates. We also wanted to further improve our flagship MX840B and increase its functional scope and performance while lowering energy consumption.

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

The third stage of evolution is now here with the QuantumX CX27C, just in time for the tenth anniversary. What's new?

Salcher:

"The C platform can be seen as setting the pace for performance. It is essential to handle higher data rates – in vehicles and on test benches. First there is a trend towards test compression. Customers want a single layout for many different tests and thus hundreds of acquired measurement signals which they can monitor and control in real time while simulating missing parts. Second, networking of vehicle electronics is moving more and more from traditional CAN, through CAN-FD and FlexRay, towards 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 fieldbuses they choose or to acquire signals from modern new vehicle buses synchronously. As a result, we were able to increase performance by a factor of at least 12. Of course, the first module of the C generation is compatible with all the modules of the QuantumX family."

The "better Quantum" should also be mentioned – SomatXR is our ultra-rugged test and measurement system used in mobile road tests, but also increasingly on test benches. We can structure each module of the platform as an ultra-rugged version – or in short, a modular system.

How about openness and connectivity?

Salcher:

"From the very beginning, we have emphasized openness and encouraged integration. We actively approached possible partners and encouraged integration into a wide range of different software packages. 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 an efficient and comprehensive solution with its own software, but not to place any obstacles in the way of customers if they have already chosen a software package. The penetration rate of catmanAP or Enterprise in systems with a high number of channels has grown enormously and is currently at 90%, which confirms our commitment. We even offered competitors a technology transfer for issues related to PTP so we could offer our end customers added value.

We are currently in the process of establishing a new, modern software platform with EVIDAS. This package sets new standards in terms of efficient workflow, language support, cloud integration and openness."

Mr. Salcher, how do you see the future of test and measurement?

Salcher:

"With QuantumX, we are consistently moving forward along our path. The first product of the new generation, QuantumX CX27C addresses test bench applications. Support for additional fieldbuses and vehicle buses in mobile road tests will come in the near future.

In the next 5 to 10 years, the challenges facing our customers and ours: electrical, autonomous, digitally networked and intelligent. Fulfilling the corresponding requirements in this field is our main target.

We are taking the first step here with our new EVIDAS software to make our bundled measurement technology IIoT-capable (Industrial Internet of Things) and integrate it into any platform the user chooses (MS Azure, Siemens MindSphere, GE Predix, Bosch IoT, SAP Hana, amazon AWS, ThingWorx, etc.). We are convinced that aspects of this will vary depending on country, industry and application, whether on-premise or public. We remain open in this regard. We would like to bring out the main points again here. This is directly related to the already established web-based Aqira platform from HBM nCode and Reliasoft. Aqira offers an integrated solution and merges virtual (simulation) tests and real ones with powerful automatic analyses in the background. As a result, we boost efficiency and quality for our customers in their development of new products. We also receive support from Bruel & Kjær Sound & Vibration (BKSV) and thus ground-breaking technology in their domain. As of January 1, 2019, we will officially be a team. So you can expect more to come from HBM / HBK."

Multi-functional and specialist devices

The QuantumX measurement modules

  • With their universal channels, QuantumX MX840B, MX440B and MX410B 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 and the MX1609 temperature module.
  • MX430B and MX238B enable highest precision in measurements of full bridge strain gauge-based force, torque and pressure transducers.
  • 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 MX471B allows for synchronous acquisition of CAN signals and sending analog measured values via CAN to the test bench control unit or data logger.

 

Responding in real time

  • The CX27 QuantumX-Gateway incorporates the measurement system into real-time buses like PROFINET and EtherCAT, thereby ensuring complete integration into automated testing systems.
  • QuantumX MX878B and MX879B can evaluate signals, generate stimuli or simply output acquired signal values directly. This makes it easy to control small test benches.
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