test&measurementZONE Products for the week of June 1, 2009
Pico Technology Says…
Pico Technology announces two competitively priced, multi-channel, USB-powered data loggers.
With up to 12-bit resolution and up to 1 MS/s sampling rate, the PicoLog 1000 Series multi-channel voltage data loggers offer amazing value for money for this resolution, sampling rate and number of inputs. In addition, the units offer up to 4 software-configurable digital output lines and 1 PWM control output. The units also offer a current-limited sensor excitation output. All this is in a compact, portable unit that simply plugs into the USB port of a standard Windows-based PC, without any need for an external power supply to the unit.
Designed to suit a wide range of general-purpose voltage, sensor and transducer logging applications, the PicoLog 1000 Series Data Loggers feature independent software-configurable control outputs, an external terminal board to facilitate connections and custom front-end circuitry, and a choice of 10 or 12-bit input resolution. The PicoLog 1000 Series voltage data loggers contain everything needed for immediate use, and the free, comprehensive PicoLog data logging software includes an SDK for customized programming.
Both loggers feature 3 sampling modes to meet most data logging needs: real-time continuous, streaming and block mode. Streaming mode allows channel voltage readings to be logged continuously at 1 kS/s on any number of channels, while real-time continuous mode provides averaged, time-accurate readings with automatic measurements available in PicoLog. Block mode captures at the full 1 MS/s sample rate of the logger for the duration of the 8k sample buffer.
Pico Technology isn’t a top-tier test-and-measurement company such as Tektronix, Keithley, or Fluke, but it nonetheless offers impressive equipment--and its wares are consistently cost-effective.
The company's press statement modestly states that its boxes are "competitively priced," which is an understatement. The 10-bit PicoLog 1012 has 12 input channels, and sells for roughly $157, which is a steal in my opinion. The PicoLog 1216, with sixteen 12-bit input channels, sells for just $246. Both confer 70 kHz of dc-coupled high-Z input bandwidth. Both accept sensor signals in the range of 0 V to 2.5 V.
These diminutive data loggers (either will fit in the palm of your hand) offer uncommon value, especially when you consider the well-supported software that's bundled with them. More on that in a moment.
Up To 64 Channels
Both modules communicate with a host PC using plug-and-play USB 2.0 (Universal Serial Bus). If need be, you can connect up to four of these data loggers to one host PC, creating a system with as many as 64 channels.
Your host Windows XP (SP2 or later Service Pack) or Windows Vista PC will need to run a Pentium II microprocessor, or better, with at least 64 Mbyte of RAM (512 Mbyte for Vista), although a gigabyte of RAM is recommended for optimum performance.
These modules should prove applicable for a range of general-purpose voltage, sensor, and transducer logging applications. Both units in the PicoLog 1000 Series feature independent software-configurable scaling and control outputs, and an optional low cost (about $16) external terminal board that can additionally accommodate specialized or custom front-end circuitry for a particular application.
A Worthy Predecessor
Note that Pico's instruments stem from the company's ADC-11, which was its first multi-channel data logger product, and the USB ADC-11, a USB successor. Not abandoning that legacy, Pico Technology added USB ADC-11 compatibility to these PicoLog 1000 products, a compatibility feature lets you use a PicoLog 1000 logger as a direct replacement for a USB ADC-11.
As mentioned in the company's press release, you can operate a PicoLog 1000 in one of three sampling modes. The single-channel streaming mode lets voltage readings be logged continuously at up to 100 ksample/s. If you use single-channel block mode, you can capture signals at up to 1 Msample/s, until you fill the 8000-sample buffer.
In real time continuous sampling mode, a PicoLog 1000 provides averaged time-accurate readings with automatic measurements at up to 1 ksample/s on any number of channels. Both loggers can also provide 3.3 V digital outputs, and supply dc drive for sensors. The PicoLog 1216 can additionally deliver a PWM (pulse-width modulated) signal. The PWM output is adjustable from 100 µs to 1800 µs, and is adjustable from 0% to 100% in 1% steps.
As for the abovementioned software, both PicoLog 1000 modules ship with ready-to-install programs for Windows. You get the company’s PicoLog For Windows data logging package, as well as PicoScope 6 For Windows, which is oscilloscope software that can be used with the firm’s other products as well. You also get an SDK (software development kit) that helps you craft your own executables. You can use the SDK to support third-party software, too, such as the ever-popular LabVIEW environment from National Instruments.
You can use also PicoLog For Windows to create multiple views, so you can see data presented as a graph, a spreadsheet, or simple text. Parameter scaling lets you convert raw data into standard engineering units, and math functions can be used to crunch parameters as needed. Alarms can also alert you if a parameter goes out of range. PicoLog also supports networking so you can transfer measurements across a LAN or even over the Internet. You can also run this software in English, French, or German.
For its part, the PicoScope 6 scope software imparts a number of color-coded persistence modes, and spectrum analysis. I especially like the latter, as not every oscilloscope user thinks in terms of amplitude vs. frequency. Pico's package quickly puts you in the frequency domain, which can be useful for tracking down noise or distortion.
Using PicoScope 6's channel math capabilities, you can also calculate sums, differences, products, and inverse values, as well as create custom functions using standard arithmetic, exponential, and trig functions.
PicoScope 6 also supports automated measurements, and you can export your data into .CSV (comma separated value), tab delimited text, Windows .BMP (bitmap), .GIF (graphics interchange format), and .PNG (portable network graphics) files. You can also format your data for export to The MathWorks MatLab 4 format.
If that isn't enough, Pico offers free upgrades and free technical support. Indeed, Pico Technology emphasizes that its software is regularly updated with feature extensions and improvements that can be downloaded from its Web site.