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Signal analyzer runs Linux on BeagleBone Black-like core

Feb 3, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 1,837 views

Data Translation unveiled a Linux-enabled dynamic signal analyzer for measuring noise and vibration, based on a BeagleBone Black-like embedded computer.

The DT7837 is used for testing audio, acoustic, and vibration on mobile devices and other electronics gear. The dynamic signal analyzer can simultaneously measure four 24-bit IEPE sensor inputs at a sampling rate of 102.4 kS/s, says Data Translation.

(click image to enlarge)

The device is “ideal for precision measurements with microphones, accelerometers, and other transducers that have a large dynamic range,” says Data Translation. It’s available now in a retail “DT7837” version packaged in a rugged, 165 x 100 x 55mm metal enclosure, and will appear later this year as a board-level “DT7837-OEM” product aimed at OEMs.

DT7837 exploded view
(click image to enlarge)

The DT7837 uses a “BeagleBone Black ARM processor” with “BeagleBone Black functions,” says Data Translation, noting the presence of the same Texas Instruments Sitara AM335x Cortex-A8 SoC found on the popular hacker SBC. We asked for clarification, and were told the company prototyped the design using a BeagleBone Black, and then developed a customized board based on the BBB’s open-source design, but with several functions removed and others added in order to better match the signal analyzer’s precise requirements. However, the designs are close enough so that dynamic signal analyzer apps running on the BeagleBone Black should require only slight modification to run on the DT7837, said the rep.

DT7837 block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The 600MHz Sitara SoC is backed up with 512MB DDR3 RAM, 2GB onboard flash, and a microSD slot. The analyzer device supports functions like 24-bit stimulus output for dynamic waveform generation, as well as a tachometer, 8-in and 8-out DIO, external trigger functions, and counter/timers, all supported by “well-documented” APIs, says Data Translation. The APIs let you develop embedded applications using the AD, DA, counter timers, tachometer, and other on-board I/O, says the company.

Close-up view of the DT7837’s “ARM Block”
(click image to enlarge)

The DT7837 is further equipped with an Ethernet port, an RS232 interface, and USB host and client ports. Other features include analog I/O, a serial debug port, and 3.3V UART, SPI, and I2C interfaces made available via 6-pin headers. The device runs on an external 5V power supply.

The DT7837’s Linux 3.12 architecture with custom loadable kernel modules
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In addition to shipping with API documentation, the DT7837 offers complete Linux 3.12 source code based on TI’s AM335x SDK Essentials Version 7.0. The stack includes custom loadable kernel modules (LKMs) “to expose the onboard hardware to Linux user space applications via virtual file interfaces,” says Data Translation. The source code and LKMs can be modified and used without any restrictions, says the company. Example code shows how to develop an embedded application for any specific purpose using open source libraries and utilities.

DT7837 output screen showing “outstanding” dynamic performance on a -6dB sine wave at 1kHz, including ENOB (Effective Number of Bits) of 15.9
(click image to enlarge; source: Data Translation)

“Vibration testing has increased dramatically, driven by the strong sales of consumer products such as cell phones, tablets, performance cameras, so that every product must undergo strict vibration testing,” stated Data Translation President Fred Molinari. “With the embedded BeagleBone Black industrialized ARM processor, real-time processing and analysis for vibration testing is greatly simplified.”

Further information

The DT7837 is available starting at $2,295 for the retail version with the enclosure, which will begin shipping in 6-12 weeks. The DT7837-OEM board-level product (without the enclosure) is due later this year, with pricing expected to start at $1,995. More information may be found at Data Translation’s DT7837 product page.

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