We have a new intern here and we have recently been talking about the arbitrary waveform capabilities (from now on I will refer to this as arbs) of our power supplies and I thought that this would make an interesting blog post. This is a really cool feature that we offer in our products as it give you the ability to create an alternating signal using our DC power supplies. The two types of arbs are the LIST system and the constant dwell arb.
The LIST arb is a feature that we have in quite a few of our products. The N6700 family, the N7900 family, and even some of our older power supplies have this feature. The "Arb" system in the N6705 DC Power Analyzer is similar to the LIST. These LISTs can contain as many as 512 different points with a timing resolution as low as 1 us. Each point consists of a voltage or current setting and a time. The times can be different for each point. A short example of a programmed LIST is:
In the example above, the voltage will start out at 10 V and stay for 5 seconds, then transition to 25 V for 1 s and then go to 5 V for 4 s. As you can see there are 3 voltage values with 3 corresponding dwell times.
The second mode for arbs that is only available on the N6705B DC Power Analyzer and the N7900 APS is call the Constant Dwell Arb (CD Arb). In this mode, you can program as many as 64K points but all of the defined points have the same dwell time. If we want to do the same waveform as above, we need to choose what will be our dwell time. Since the smallest dwell I used in my example is 1 s, I will choose that. Here is what a small part of the code would look like:
The code above will produce the same waveform as the LIST example. CD Arbs can get pretty unwieldy when you have a ton of points but we do offer some tools in our 14585A Control and Analysis software that allow you to import and export csv files to make life a bit easier.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both. As you can see, in some cases it is easier to program a list since it requires less dwell points and gives you more flexibility with what your dwell can be. If your waveform has a lot of DC levels in it, then the standard list might work for you. If you have a long, complex waveform the 64 Kpoints offered in an arb will most likely offer you the best option to replicate your waveform.
Whichever arb you pick, this is a very powerful tool. I am thinking that I will follow this up at a future date with more information about arbs. If you have any questions, feel free to leave us some comments.