We are finishing up a production test system that performs measurements on an automotive electrical component. The equipment rack (pictured above) is part of the ATE Core Configuration offering from National Instruments.
What makes the system special is that we are using the "ATE Core Configuration" product from NI. In the past we would have purchased an off the shelf equipment rack. We would still have purchased the PXI Chassis and programmable power supply from NI, but we would have had to mount them into the rack ourselves. Then there is the issue of ventilation and bringing in power to the rack. We would have to purchase and mount fans and then design a power-entry solution. For power entry there are considerations such as emergency shut off, breakers, distribution of power to the various components, etc. The ATE Core comes with fans, power entry, and power distribution modules already installed.
In addition to the standard power distribution components of the ATE Core, we have installed a high current programmable power supply and a PXI chassis with a multimeter module, high speed and industrial digital I/O, and dedicated serial interface. We were able to customize the ATE Core to move the power entry module to the top, add the customer's industrial PC, and mount our control panel. The tests will evaluate current, voltage, resistance, pulse timing, network communications, and diagnostic messages with a TestStand sequence running within a user interface framework developed in LabVIEW.
The ATE Core Configuration is a starting point. It is kind of like buying a pre-stretched canvas to paint on rather than building/stretching your own. You still "customize" the canvas with your paint, but you are starting off closer to the finished product.
What does it do for the Customer? There is some cost savings as a result of the reduction in assembly labor. There is also a higher degree of standardization should the customer order multiple units. Even if the customer orders different units, if they are all based on the ATE Core there are shared spare parts and easier maintenance.