Nothing is more disheartening to spend weeks building and debugging a program only to discover the hardware won’t give you what you want.
Even worst is if you are trusting data that has a flaw in it due to issues in the acquisition. Many of these problems won’t throw errors – but they will affect data accuracy.
This article highlights some of the key features of data acquisition (DAQ) cards when designing systems for our customers. This should help you understand how to choose a DAQ card for you.
OK, you probably thought of this one on your own! But it needs to be right.
Speed tends to be easy. What is the highest frequency you want to capture? Now multiply by 10, and you have a good DAQ speed. In certain conditions, you can get away with less, but this is the safe bet.
Accuracy is also a headline figure. There are a few elements to this though.
You can find much more detail on what goes into a DAQ cards accuracy here.
Some cards will use a single ADC and multiplex between input channels to reduce the price per unit. In many cases, this is perfectly acceptable, but there are a couple of gotchas to be aware of:
You can solve both of these by using a simultaneous sampling card. A simultaneous sampling card has an ADC per channel meaning there is no multiplexer to cause issues. It does raise the system cost.
If you have ghosting and don’t want to pay for a simultaneous sampling card, there is something else you can do. If it is because you have open channels that are being scanned by the DAQ system, you can terminate them. The termination discharges the multiplexer and corrects the readings for the following channels. There are also other options outlined at How Do I Eliminate Ghosting From My Measurements.
If you measure from multiple channels and want to see the data aligned, then you need to use the right DAQ setup, especially at higher speeds.
There are two cases to consider:
It is no secret that we are proponents of using NI hardware. We know it inside and out, and after ten years it is extremely rare that it has let us down. A big part of that is the quality and support of the driver.
We commonly hear tales from developers of how they saved £200 on hardware but they ended up doing £800 of extra work to get the driver working.
If you do look at new providers then the things to check for are:
Don’t get me wrong, we have and will work with other DAQ hardware in the future, but answers to these questions may represent it as a higher risk option.
Vendors build most DAQ cards for moving large quantities of data efficiently, often at the cost of latency (the time that it takes to request a change in software and see it in the real world). This latency is a limitation of the drivers and more often the operating system.
If you need to make fast decisions and change outputs, you have two options:
This article provides a summary of these key concepts. We hope to fill out some more detailed articles on these topics over time. Let us know which are the most interesting to you.
If you want to see what else you need to consider in a DAQ system check out our guide to the measurement chain.
In the meantime, if you have questions or need help with your system. Don’t hestitate to contact us.
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