AXIe Basics Tutorial

- a summary or tutorial providing the basics of the AXIe, AdvancedTCA Extensions for Instrumentation and Test modular platform and standard.

In this section

AXIe, AdvancedTCA Extensions for Instrumentation and Test is an extensible platform for general purpose, modular instrumentation and has been launched as an open industry standard.

AXIe is particularly aimed at test equipment and instrumentation applications where a modular approach is required and where the test equipment requires high levels of power dissipation, e.g. for complex test equipment requiring high levels of processing, and where large number of interconnections may be needed. Technologies like PXI may not be able to conveniently cater for these more complicated requirements.

The AXIe architecture builds on the experience of previous technologies including VXIbus, PXI, and LXI but has been updated to allow for larger cards and greater levels of processing and integration.

Like VXIbus and PXI, the AXIe architecture is based on an established popular modular computing platform which enables users to be able to utilise much experience and software easily. However additional features have been added to ensure that the AXIe technology has the features needed by developers and users of test and measurement systems.

AXIe History and AXIe Consortium

The AXIe Consortium was formed in November 2009 with the purpose of creating a modular instrument standard based in the AdvancedTCA form factor that would serve general purpose instrumentation and semiconductor test.

The aim of the AXIe Consortium aim was to develop and promote the AXIe standard.

There were three founding members of the AXIe Consortium: Aeroflex Corporation, Agilent Technologies Inc., and Test Evolution Corporation. Accordingly they developed the standard and the first issue of the standard was dated 30 June 2010.

The mission of the AXIe Consortium was to provide an open standard that created a robust ecosystem of components, products and systems for general purpose instrumentation and semiconductor test while using the best from the existing PXI, LXI and IVI standards.

AXIe basics

The AXIe standard is a test and instrumentation standard which aims to provide high scalability and performance to address a range of test equipment styles from bench-top measurements to rack and stack systems as well as modular ATE systems. AXIe is based on the well-established ATCA board computer standard and utilises the same form factor.

During its development the AXIe standard has been designed to provide as much compatibility as possible with existing PXI, LXI and VXI systems. In this way re-use of experience and software is intended to be achievable.

The AXIe standard defines a number of main areas for the system:

  1. Mechanical details
  2. Electrical characteristics
  3. Logical interfaces between modules and chassis

As with systems such as PXI and VXI, the AXIe modules slide into slots in the front subrack and engage with connectors in the backplane. The backplane provides the power and system management and interconnectivity to other modules. The backplane provides functions such as control, data, trigger, and timing connections between the modules. As a result AXIe includes core triggers, timing and a local bus capability.

The AXIe standard also includes what is termed a shelf manager. This is a dedicated system management controller that monitors the health of the chassis subsystems and modules, controls the chassis cooling fans, and manages the chassis power-up sequence.

All external input / output connections for the AXIe 1.0 standard are via connectors on the front faceplates of the AXIe modules.

AXIe backplane

The AXIe backplane is at the heart of the AXIe standard. The AXIe backplane supports two standards:

  • LAN   This interface is best suited to intelligent modules that support high level command interfaces. These LAN connected modules are expected to conform to many of the LXI protocols and requirements.
  • PCI Express®   The PCI Express interface used within AXIe is best suited for less intelligent modules that require low-level register control. These modules operate as extensions of the host computer and appear as standard PCI Express peripherals within the system. These PCI Express typically conform to most of the PXI software requirements.

AXIe modules typically support one or other of the two interface standards, however some will support both.

As the AXIe modules use the interfaces from PXI, LXI, or both interface, programming these modules can be much easier, and can utilise software modules from previous test programmes using the relevant interface with a minimum of change.

requirements, as defined by the AXIe 2.0 Software Specification. Thus the integration, programming, and use models of both types of modules are already familiar to most test system integrators and users.

AXIe modules

AXie modules have a standard format to enable them to fit into the standard slot and to be interchangeable.

The slot dimensions are:

  • Width:       ~30 mm
  • Height:       ~320 mm
  • Depth:       ~280 mm

These dimensions provide a large board area and module volume. This allows for high levels of power dissipation (typically between 100 - 200 watts), high performance and large channel counts while still making efficient use of rack space.

AXIe summary

AXIe is a test and instrumentation standard that addresses a slightly different market to that of PXI, LXI, VXI and others. Utilising many of the elements of PXI and LXI it offers itself as a relatively easy upgrade path for existing users of PXI and LXI, as they will be able to utilise many elements of existing software, etc. According AXIe is a technology that should gain a significant foothold in the market place for test equipment and test instrumentation, especially in scenarios where complicated test equipment is needed and where high levels of processing may be required along with large numbers of interconnects.

By Ian Poole

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