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Spectrum’s next generation of 16-bit digitisers and their new 'turbo booster'

Published: 16 March 2018 - Sarah Mead

Spectrum Instrumentation has announced a completely new designed digitiser card series of 16 models with different speeds and channels. In addition, Spectrum has launched a software package for all their latest digitisers called SCAPP – Spectrum’s CUDA access for parallel processing. SCAPP acts as “turbo booster” to drastically enhance the performance of a digitiser by providing access to the hundreds or thousands of processor cores in the Graphics Processor Unit (GPU) on a CUDA-based Nvidia graphics card.

Modular design allows 16 variations of the new digitiser

The M2p.59xx digitiser series has 16-bit resolution. The PCIe cards are available with four different speed grades of 20 MS/s, 40 MS/s, 80 MS/s and 125 MS/s and with one, two, four or eight channels. Based on Spectrum’s unique modular design philosophy, 16 different models are available ensuring a perfect match against the required specifications of the customer. The digitiser family is suitable for a wide range of applications in radar, lidar, ultrasound, laser, communications, medical science, big physics experiments, automotive, aerospace and others.

Although the size of the product has been squeezed into a half-length PCIe card, it still offers even more features than predecessor families. Each channel has a separate ADC and a fully individual programmable input amplifier with ranges between ±200 mV and ±10 V, programmable input offset for unipolar measurements, programmable input termination of 50 ? and 1 M? and an integrated calibration circuit. Models are available with up to 8 single-ended and up to 4 differential channels.

Small and fast 16-bit digitizsers

The reduced card length of 167 mm allows the powerful 16-bit digitizers to fit into much smaller PC systems than before – perfect for compact OEM solutions. A PCIe x4 lane interface dramatically increases the available streaming speed to more than 600 MByte/s – or more than 75 MS/s continuous streaming for 4 channels. That compliments the impressive on-board memory of 1 GByte and enables applications that need continuous data storage or fast online calculations. Intelligent acquisition modes like multiple recording, gated sampling or ABA – the combination of fast and slow continuous acquisition – matches nearly every application demand.

Up to 16 cards in one system can be synchronized using Spectrum’s proven star-hub technology. That allows systems to be created with up to 128 channels, all sharing a common clock and trigger, in one single chassis. For synchronization with external equipment, clock and trigger inputs and outputs are standard. For even more flexibility, 4 individually programmable connectors are available directly on the front-plate that offer additional trigger inputs, status outputs, synchronous digital input lines, asynchronous I/O or a reference clock input for an integrated time stamping unit.

A 'turbo booster' for all Spectrum digitisers

Modern high-speed and high-resolution digitisers produce gigantic amounts of data. This causes a bottleneck effect, because to transfer the data you have to use either the CPU of the host PC with limited resources or a FPGA that is complex to program. Spectrum Instrumentation has solved this problem with its new SCAPP software option – the Spectrum CUDA Access for Parallel Processing. To enhance the signal processing, the data is send to a GPU on a graphic card (thousands of cores), not to the CPU on the mainboard (only 8 or 16 cores). The structure of a GPU works perfectly for signal processing as it is designed for parallel data processing, normally serving the thousands of pixels on a monitor. The needed equipment is just a standard CUDA-based NVIDIA graphics card ranging from around 150€ to 3000€ and the SCAPP software package.

SCAPP performance examples

With SCAPP, the performance of a mid-speed digitizer like the new M2p.59xx family already rises drastically. It becomes even more important with high-speed digitizers like the Spectrum M4i.44xx or M4i.22xx series, producing data with 500 MS/s or even 5 GS/s.

The interconnection between digitizer and GPU is based on PCI Express. Depending on the selected Spectrum digitizer card, a continuous throughput of more than 3.0 GByte/s between the digitizer and GPU can be achieved. That is enough to support continuous acquisition from a 1 channel 8-bit digitizer sampling at 2.5 GS/s or a 2 channel 14-bit unit running at 500 MS/s. By using one of Spectrum’s transfer-bandwidth saving data acquisition modes, like Multiple Recording, the sampling speeds can be even much higher.

CUDA cards are scalable with processing cores between 256 and 5000, with memory of several GByte and up to 12.0 TFLOP (1012 -Trillion Floating Point Operations per second). A small sized card with 1000 cores and 3.0 TFLOP is already capable of doing continuous data conversion, multiplexing, windowing, FFT and averaging at 2 channels 500 MS/s with a FFT block size of 512k – and that can run for hours!

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-June 2019+