Triggering and Synchronization

This tutorial is applicable to all SHFSG Instruments.

Goals and Requirements

The goal of this tutorial is to show how to use the SHFSG as a trigger source, as well as how to configure the SHFSG to respond to an external trigger. In order to visualize the multi-channel signals, an oscilloscope with sufficient bandwidth and channel number is required.

Preparation

Connect the cables as illustrated below. Make sure that the instrument is powered on and connected by Ethernet to your local area network (LAN) where the host computer resides. After starting LabOne, the default web browser opens with the LabOne graphical user interface.

The instrument can also be connected via the USB interface, which can be simpler for a first test. As a final configuration for measurements, it is recommended to use the 1GbE interface, as it offers a larger data transfer bandwidth.

fig tutorial basic setup marker
Figure 1. Connections for the arbitrary waveform generator triggering and synchronization tutorial

The tutorial can be started with the default instrument configuration (e.g. after a power cycle) and the default user interface settings (e.g. after pressing F5 in the browser).

Generating and Responding to Triggers

In this tutorial you will learn about the most important use cases:

  • Generating a TTL signal with the AWG to trigger another piece of equipment

  • Triggering the AWG with an external TTL signal

Generating Markers with the AWG

To begin with, we generate a trigger output with channel 1. As this tutorial is an extension of the Basic Waveform Playback Tutorial, configure the SHFSG as follows:

Table 1. Settings: configure the output
Tab Sub-tab Label Setting / Value / State

Output

Signal Output 1

On

ON

Output

Signal Output 1

Range (dBm)

10

Output

Channel 1

Center Freq (Hz)

1.0 G

Output

Signal Output 1

Output Path

RF

Output

Signal Output 2

On

ON

Output

Signal Output 2

Range (dBm)

10

Output

Signal Output 2

Center Freq (Hz)

1.0 G

Output

Signal Output 2

Output Path

RF

Table 2. Settings: configure the external scope
Scope Setting Value / State

Ch1 enable

ON

Ch1 range

0.2 V/div

Ch2 enable

ON

Ch2 range

0.5 V/div

Timebase

500 ns/div

Trigger source

Ch2

Trigger level

200 mV

Run / Stop

ON

After configuring the output using the table above, we use the SHFSG to generate a trigger output. There are two ways of generating trigger output signals with the AWG: as markers that are part of a waveform and played with sample precision, or by controlling trigger bits through the sequencer.

The method using markers is recommended when precise timing is required, and/or complicated serial bit patterns need to be played on the Marker outputs. Marker bits are part of every waveform, and are set to zero by default. Each waveform is represented by an array of 16-bit words: 14 bits of each word represent the analog waveform data, and the remaining 2 bits represent two digital marker channels. Hence, upon playback, a digital signal with sample-precise alignment with the analog output is generated.

Generating a TTL output signal using a sequencer instruction is simpler, but the timing resolution is lower than when using markers. The sequencer instructions play at the sequencer clock cycle of 4 ns, whereas the markers are part of the waveform and therefore have a resolution of 0.5 ns. The method using sequencer instructions is useful to generate a single trigger signal at the start of an AWG program, for instance.

Table 3. Comparison: AWG markers and triggers
Marker Trigger

Implementation

Part of waveform

Sequencer instruction

Timing control

High

Low

Generation of serial bit patterns

Yes

No

Cross-device synchronization

Yes

Yes

Let us first demonstrate the use of markers. In the following code example we first generate a Gaussian pulse. This is identical as in the Basic Waveform Playback Tutorial, where the generated wave already included marker bits - they were simply set to zero by default. We use the marker function to assign the desired non-zero marker bits to the wave. The marker function takes two arguments: the first is the length of the wave in samples; the second is the marker configuration in binary encoding, where the value 0 stands for both marker bits low, the values 1, 2, and 3 stand for the first, the second, and both marker bits high, respectively. We use this to construct the wave called w_marker.

const marker_pos = 3000;

wave w_gauss  = gauss(8000, 4000, 1000);
wave w_left   = marker(marker_pos, 0);
wave w_right  = marker(8000-marker_pos, 1);
wave w_marker = join(w_left, w_right);
wave w_gauss_marker = w_gauss + w_marker;

playWave(1, w_gauss_marker);

The waveform addition with the '+' operator adds up analog waveform data but also combines marker data. The wave w_gauss contains zero marker data, whereas the wave w_marker contains zero analog data. Consequently the wave called w_gauss_marker contains the merged analog and marker data. We use the integer constant marker_pos to determine the point where the first marker bit flips from 0 to 1 somewhere in the middle of the Gaussian pulse.

The add function and the '+' operator combine marker bits by a logical OR operation. This means combining 0 and 1 yields 1, and combining 1 and 1 yields 1 as well.

There is a certain freedom to assign different marker bits to the Mark outputs. The following table summarizes the settings to apply in order to output marker bit 1 on Mark 1.

Table 4. Settings: configure the AWG marker output and scope trigger
Tab Sub-tab Section # Label Setting / Value / State

DIO

Marker Out

1

Signal

Output 1 Marker 1

Figure 2 shows the AWG signal captured by the scope as a yellow curve. The green curve shows the second scope channel displaying the marker signal. Try changing the marker_pos constant and re-running the sequence program to observe the effect on the temporal alignment of the Gaussian pulse. After the waveform has finished playing, the marker bit returns to a value of zero automatically, as no more waveform is being played.

fig tutorial awg scopeMarker
Figure 2. Gaussian pulse and square marker signal generated by the AWG and captured by the scope

Let us now demonstrate the use of sequencer instructions to generate a trigger signal. Copy and paste the following code example into the Sequence Editor.

wave w_gauss = gauss(8000, 4000, 1000);

setTrigger(1);
playWave(1, w_gauss);
waitWave();
setTrigger(0);

Each AWG core has four trigger output states available to it. The setTrigger function takes a single argument encoding the four trigger output states in binary manner – the integer number 1 corresponds to a configuration of 0/0/0/1 for the trigger outputs 4/3/2/1. The binary integer notation of the form 0b0000 is useful for this purpose – e.g. setTrigger(0b0011) will set trigger outputs 1 and 2 to 1, and trigger outputs 3 and 4 to 0. We included a waitWave instruction after the playWave instruction. It ensures that the subsequent setTrigger instruction is executed only after the Gaussian wave has finished playing, and not during waveform playback.

The waitWave instruction represents a means to control the timing of instructions in the Wait & Set and the Playback queues. In the example above, the waitWave instruction puts the playback of the next instruction in the Wait & Set queue, in this case setTrigger(0), on hold until the waveform is finished. Without the waitWave instruction, the AWG trigger would return to zero at the beginning of the waveform playback.

The use of waitWave is explicitly not required between consecutive playWave and playZero instructions. Sequential instructions in the Playback queue are played immediately after one another, back to back.

We reconfigure the Mark 1 connector in the DIO tab such that it outputs AWG Trigger 1, instead of Output 1 Marker 1. The rest of the settings can stay unchanged.

Table 5. Settings: configure the AWG trigger output
Tab Sub-tab Section # Label Setting / Value / State

DIO

Marker Out

1

Signal

AWG Trigger 1

Figure 3 shows the AWG signal captured by the scope. This looks very similar to Figure 2 in fact. With this method, we’re less flexible in choosing the trigger time, as the rising trigger edge will always be at the beginning of the waveform. But we don’t have to bother about assigning the marker bits to the waveform.

fig tutorial awg scopeTrigger
Figure 3. Gaussian pulse and trigger signal generated by the AWG and captured by the scope

Triggering the AWG

For this part of the tutorial, connect the cables as illustrated below.

fig tutorial self sync setup
Figure 4. Connections for the arbitrary waveform generator basic playback tutorial

In this section we show how to trigger the AWG with an external TTL signal. We start by using Channel 1 of the SHFSG to generate a periodic TTL signal. As shown in Figure 4, the Mark output of channel 1 is connected to the Trig input of channel 2. We monitor the marker and signal outputs of channel 2 on a scope.

wave m_high = marker(8000,1); //marker high for 8000 samples
wave m_low = marker(8000,0); //marker low for 8000 samples
wave m = join(m_high, m_low);

while (1) {
    playWave(m);
}

Compile and run the above program on the AWG core of channel 1. Then configure the Mark 1 and Mark 2 to use Output 1 Marker 1:

Table 6. Settings: configure the AWG marker output and scope trigger
Tab Sub-tab Section # Label Setting / Value / State

DIO

Marker Out

1

Signal

Output 1 Marker 1

DIO

Marker Out

2

Signal

Output 1 Marker 1

Next we configure channel 2 to respond to the trigger generated by channel 1. Internally, the AWG core of each channel has 2 digital trigger input channels. These are not directly associated with physical device inputs but can be freely configured to probe a variety of internal or external signals. Here, we link the AWG Digital Trigger 1 of Channel 2 to the physical Trig 2 connector, and we configure it to trigger on the rising edge.

Table 7. Settings: configure the AWG digital trigger input
Tab # Sub-tab Section Label Setting / Value / State

AWG

2

Trigger

Digital Trigger 1

Signal

Trigger In 2

AWG

2

Trigger

Digital Trigger 1

Slope

Rise

Finally, we modify the previous AWG program by adding a while loop so that the sequence can be repeated infinitely and by including a waitDigTrigger instruction just before the playWave instruction. The result is that upon every repetition inside the infinite while loop, the AWG will wait for a rising edge on Trig 2.

const marker_pos = 3000;

wave w_gauss  = gauss(8000, 4000, 1000);
wave w_left   = marker(marker_pos, 0);
wave w_right  = marker(8000-marker_pos, 1);
wave w_marker = join(w_left, w_right);
wave w_gauss_marker = w_gauss + w_marker;

while (1) {
    //wait for external trigger
    waitDigTrigger(1);
    playWave(1, w_gauss_marker);
}

Compile and run the above program on the AWG core of channel 2. Figure 5 shows the pulse series as seen on the scope: the pulses are now spaced by the oscillator period of 8 μs, unlike previously when the period was determined by the length of the waveform w_gauss. Try changing the trigger signal frequency or unplugging the trigger cable to observe the immediate effect on the signal.

fig tutorial awg scopePeriod
Figure 5. Externally triggered pulse series generated by the AWG.