Rugged PXI Chassis / PXIe Chassis

A PXI chassis is a modular enclosure that houses electronic instruments for automated testing and measurement purposes, featuring high-speed data transfer and synchronization capabilities. In defense applications PXI chassis can be used to develop versatile testing systems for radar, communication, and surveillance equipment, enabling rapid prototyping, validation, and maintenance of critical defense technologies in operational environments.
Overview Rugged PXI Chassis / PXIe Chassis
By Mike Ball Last updated: May 16th, 2024

PXI (PCI eXtensions for Instrumentation) is a modular platform designed for the development of test, measurement and automation systems, and based around the CompactPCI interconnect standard. It is often used in support of a wide variety of military, defense and aerospace programs including aircraft, armored vehicles and weapons systems.

PXI chassis are available in several form factors, including rackmount, portable and benchtop. They are modular, allowing off-the-shelf modules from a variety of vendors to be plugged into a single system. These modules are usually either 3U or 6U in size, and some PXI chassis may accept both 3U and 6U modules. Module types may include:

  • DAQ
  • Analog and digital I/O
  • FPGAs
  • RF analyzers and signal generators
  • Communications interfaces

PXI Chassis Control

A PXI chassis provides power, cooling and connectivity for the modules within. It will typically also incorporate either a dedicated embedded controller, or provide options to connect an external controller or a desktop or laptop PC.

Multiple chassis may be able to be daisy-chained together and managed by a single controller.

PXI systems also incorporate a dedicated 10 MHz reference clock that makes them ideal for applications requiring precision timing and synchronization.

Compliance & Compatibility

PXIe is a standard derived from PXI but utilizing the PCI Express bus, which provides enhanced bandwidth and thus allows the use of more advanced high-speed modules and those with larger numbers of channels. PXIe chassis are compatible with PXI modules, however, the reverse is not true.

PXI and PXIe chassis were traditionally designed for use in laboratory environments and not suitable for rugged field deployments. However, rugged PXI and PXIe chassis solutions have been developed. These may incorporate enhanced cooling for both the power supply and modules, as well as compliance with MIL-STD-461 for EMI/EMC and MIL-STD-810 for harsh environmental conditions.