The NI SwitchBlock is a new type of switch designed for large matrix test systems. It includes internal column expansion features to create matrices with more than 8,800 crosspoints in a single PXI chassis. To improve long-term system reliability, the NI SwitchBlock is shipped with the new NI Switch Health Center, which contains an integrated relay test, relay count tracking, and report generation.
NI Switch Executive intelligent route management software makes it possible to program these large matrix applications and includes a configuration wizard to accelerate development with the NI SwitchBlock.
Figure 1. Components of the NI SwitchBlock Expandable Large Matrix Switch for PXI
The new NI SwitchBlock for PXI provides a clean, simple method to create matrices for large-scale applications. An NI SwitchBlock carrier occupies four PXI slots and holds up to six relay cards. You can connect these relay cards via a carrier’s integrated analog bus to easily create large matrices with more than 2,000 crosspoints.
Figure 2. NI SwitchBlock carriers can hold six relay cards and occupy four PXI slots.
For even larger matrices, you can link multiple carriers together to configure matrices with more than 8,000 crosspoints in a single PXI chassis. This integrated, expandable hardware design helps streamline switching configurations in automated test systems and reduce development time.
Figure 3. Connect multiple NI SwitchBlock carriers with an expansion bridge to create larger matrices.
With NI Switch Executive switch management software, you can graphically configure or automatically route signals across multiple relay cards simply by specifying end points. This high level of abstraction helps you quickly begin your application. You can then store, validate, maintain, and scale groups of routes from this single switch management interface.
Figure 4. Graphical configuration of route groups in NI Switch Executive simplifies switch management and programming.
Next, you can programmatically connect these route groups using the NI LabVIEW graphical programming environment or access route groups directly through NI TestStand test management software.
Figure 5. Connect hundreds of routes with a single step by using NI Switch Executive with NI TestStand.
NI carefully chose the reed relays on the NI SwitchBlock to last for millions of cycles at their rated voltage and current, but demanding automated test systems can take these relays to the end of their specified lifetimes. To increase long-term reliability and help with predictive maintenance, you can access the NI Switch Health Center, which automatically runs onboard diagnostics to verify relay continuity and display relay count information.
Figure 6. Quickly test the health of each relay in an NI SwitchBlock using the NI Switch Health Center.
You also can quickly generate a report of the test results from the NI Switch Health Center for documentation in critical applications.
Figure 7. Automatically generate detailed relay health status reports with the click of a button.
Due to the large number of signals involved with high-density switching, engineers often prefer to use mass interconnect solutions to improve the long-term reliability of the connector interface, and to abstract the test points to a single common connector. NI has worked closely with two main vendors for PXI mass interconnect solutions to provide the best possible connectivity options for the NI SwitchBlock. Read the full article on connecting to the NI SwitchBlock for more details on mass interconnect solutions from Virginia Panel Corporation and MAC Panel.
Figure 8. Use mass interconnect solutions to increase the reliability and longevity of test fixturing.
In addition to mass interconnect options, National Instruments offers standard cables and connector blocks for the NI SwitchBlock. All modules can be broken out to a 96-pin connector block that is designed specifically to provide shielding and safety from each crosspoint of the NI SwitchBlock out to a connection terminal.
Figure 9. Use standard cables and terminal blocks for flexible connectivity to the NI SwitchBlock.
Read about the NI SwitchBlock hardware architecture (Part 1 of 4)