1996 brought one of the coldest winters on record to Austin, Texas, but it wasn’t just the weather that made that year .
Cofounder Dr. James Truchard (Dr. T), Ron Wolfe, and Carsten Thomsen were brainstorming a solution that could take the benefits customers achieved from our PC data acquisition products and port those functions to the VXI platform we were heavily involved in.
After several rounds of “what if” scenarios, the lightbulb illuminated: Rather than converting everything over to VXI, it’d be a lot easier to take the instrumentation extensions and openness of VXI and bring that to PC technology rather than the other way around.
Nine months later, we introduced PCI eXtensions for Instrumentation (PXI) to the world at our annual conference, NIWeek.
The announcement showcased the first PXI chassis, the eight-slot PXI-1000 chassis, and the first five PXI instruments that consisted of digital I/O, two variants of multifunction I/O (DAQ), image acquisition, and GPIB.
When preparation meets opportunity
While it may seem like we developed a completely new test platform in less than a year, the eight years of experience working with both an open, interoperable standard driven by a consortium (VXI) and the experience with PC-based instrumentation business gave us a running start.
Unlike other test vendors at the time, we saw the possibility of the disruption and understood how the software-defined approach of PXI hardware could provide a beneficial and profitable alternative to traditional instrumentation.
Rather than us locking up all of the functionality inside of a box, we effectively gave our users the ‘keys to the castle’ with software.
To ensure that the new standard could flourish, we also announced at NIWeek 1997 the creation of an industry consortium, the PXI Systems Alliance (PXISA), demonstrating that PXI was defined to be an open, industry standard for test applications.
PXI today and tomorrow
Smart devices are creating an inflection point in automated test for test leaders challenged with ensuring the quality of these devices at increasingly lower costs.
Whether they’re testing smart thermostats or smarter vehicles, organizations are transitioning away from rack-and-stack box instruments and closed-architecture automated test equipment (ATE) systems. Smarter test systems that scale with escalating requirements to continually shorten time to market and drive down cost are the future of test.
The modular PXI platform is the foundation of a smarter test system and has seen great adoption; Frost and Sullivan expects PXI revenue to grow by 16% YoY from 2016 to 2021.
Our extensive portfolio of more than 600 PXI instruments scales from the industry’s most accurate 7 ½ digit Digital Multimeter to mmWave for cutting edge wireless design and automotive radar applications. In addition to instrumentation, we also continue to set the pace for the PXI platform with Gen 3 PCI Express technology, Intel Xeon-based Embedded controllers, and laptop control options with ThunderboltTM 3 technology.
In addition to hardware, we offer a software portfolio for building smarter test systems, from interactive measurements on soft front panels and graphical programming with LabVIEW, to the industry-leading Test Executive, TestStand, for test sequencing and reporting.