Scientific Instrumentation and Software
for Industry and Academia

Here at
a new range of NMR instrumentation is now available for purchase.

Offering ready-to-run Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs), as stand-alone instruments and compact modules for inclusion into your laboratory or its instrumentation. These are not just general-purpose development boards, but turn-key modules for building into instruments, with complete functions available as combined hardware / firmware / software / GUI modules.

Mostly incorporating Field Programable Gate-Array (FPGA) modules for rapid peripheral handling, these modules can form the basis of high quality scientific instrumentation and software.

Top-level control software and GUIs are written in the powerful array-handling language Apl (MicroApl's AplX), and with System-on-Chip (SoC) FPGAs that include a Linux ARM processor, Server-side AplX resides in the Arm, with the Client AplX handling the GUI and file I/O on the supervisory desktop or laptop.

Pre-written VHDL firmware and array-based software, interfacing to the FPGA over Ethernet or the USB, gives transparent access to multiple banks of sub-modules and instrument functions in the FPGA. Each sub-module has an independent block of up to 256 USB interface registers, to configure the sub-instrument and for bi-directional data transfer. This code forms the skeleton into which the sub-modules / instruments may be slotted, in a consistent manner.

Digital NMR Receiver.
A Dual Channel NMR Receiver with ultra low noise pre-amplifier (~60 dB gain), 14 bit 125 MHz ADCs followed by digital down conversion and decimating filter is now available for purchase. These are in daily 24/7 use in the Lab-Tools NMR Lab. - instrumentation - NMR Digital Receiver - instrumentation - NMR Digital Receiver GUI - instrumentation - NMR Digital Receiver Data - instrumentation - NMR Digital Receiver ready to go

Digital NMR Transmitter
The latest version of this, based on an extensively tested earlier version, is in the final stages of development.

NMR Ancillary Instrumentation.
The Precision DVM (see above right) and the Digital Scope / Transient Processor (see below) have been working 24/7 in the lab for a number years and are now ready for release. - instrumentation - Precision DVM
Lab-Tools - Instrumentation - 24bit Precision DVM
Download 1 page PDF document

Behind the scenes
Lab-Tools interface their NMR instrumentation using 3 different Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs). This is an overview of how we design instruments in a modular manner.

Lab-Tools GUI to 3x FPGA using AplX from BeauWebber

Lab-Tools - Bespoke
In addition to off-the-shelf instruments, we can design new instrumentation, based on these modules or others, for you, so please do discuss with us new designs that you may interested in commissioning.

Lab-Tools Instrumentation Modules:

  1. USB Interfaced FPGA Master Module

  2. Dual-channel Low-Level RF input / Clock Recovery Module / Frequency Counter

For non-UK mainland or VAT-free orders, please E-mail me at Dr. Beau Webber .

Interfacing a circuit in an FPGA to a PC

A new firmware interface for USB interfaced instrumentation.

Based on the Lab-Tools FPGA Modular Firmware Skeleton for multiple instruments. There are some YouTube videos of it in action.
Full details of this Firmware and example use GUI.

This VHDL firmware and GUI code distill 30 years of experience interfacing computers to the real-world. Data is transferred to and from the FPGA at the full USB2 rate of 480 MBit.s-1 (60 MByte.s-1). - Interface a circuit in an FPGA to
              a PC - for USB2 interface. - FPGA Modular Firmware Skeleton
              for multiple instruments.
A freely available binary only download is available for testing purposes :
Free Download - 2.5MByte, Version 0.95. Note you will first need to download and install the APLX Support Library from MicroApl . If you run Norton: their Insight/Sonar programs were complaining. Now : "The Symantec Insight Dispute team has reviewed your recent submission to the Insight Dispute Submission form Webpage form "FPGA_interface_demo_2012-05-13_TF." In light of further investigation and analysis Symantec is happy to remove this detection from within its products."
Excellent pricing options for source code installations, to allow you to use this code for your own applications, are available for both personal use and commercial use.

Lab-Tools Transient Averager Modules
Transient Capture / Average / Process

A new Lab-Tools module nearing the end of development is a USB2 interfaced analogue transient averager module, with on-board FPGA for averaging and signal processing. Based on a coherent, stacking credit-card CardStac module form-factor, and on the Lab-Tools FPGA Modular Firmware Skeleton for multiple instruments.

Features :

  • 2 channel 13 bit Digital Scope.
  • FPGA for on-board signal processing.
  • USB2 for fast data transfer and fast programming.
  • Single-ended or differential I/O,
    gold plated SMA connectors.
  • 2 x I/O Digital Triggers,
    gold plated SMA connectors.
  • Tiny credit-card sized module.
Applications :
  • 2 channel 13 bit 1 M sample.s-1 Transient Capture.
  • 2 channel 13 bit 1 M sample.-1 Hardware Transient Averager
    (firmware and software included).
  • 2 channel 13 bit 1 M sample.-1 Transient Data Processor
    (custom firmware and software by agreement if needed).
  • NMR and MRI data capture.
  • Ultrasonics data capture. - Transient Capture / Average /
              Process .

USB2 interfaced Transient Capture / Average / Process module.
Download 1 page PDF document

 Precision Logging DVM, with Averaging, for Thermocouple Voltages.




                                5 Differential channel 24bit DVM with averaging, logging, FPGA, and USB2 interface.

                                                                                    Download 1 page PDF document

Applications :

  • 24bit Precision Intelligent Digital Voltmeter.
  • Thermocouple Data Averaging amd Logging.
  • NMR Sample and Control Temperatures.
  • High precision for NMR Cryoporometry.
  • Averaging USB Thermal Data Logger
  • Temperature Measurement and Control.
  • Capability for Ratiometric measurements.

Features :

  • Full USB2 data transfer rate.
  • Modular and extensible.
  • Programmable over USB bus.
  • Modular firmware available.
  • International Cardstac form factor
  • Standard FTDI USB interface chip. . 
  • Digital Temperature Control outputs.

This module is primarily intended for the highest precision 5 channel differential logging of thermocouple voltages, using an external cold-junction reference.
Can also be adapted for 10 channel single-ended use, and for ratiometric use with strain-gauges etc.

Up to 6 additional optional gold plated SMA connectors may be specified on credit-card sized form-factor.

For extra capabilities, additional DVM boards or boards with other function may be added to the stack.
FPGA Modular Firmware Skeleton VHDL code is available for implementing multiple instruments.

FPGA Co-processors:
Lab-Tools FPGA Binning Co-processor for Apl

An example single-function USB2 interfaced FPGA co-processor has now been produced by Lab-Tools.
This implements a binning algorithm in a field programmable gate array, that for large data sets runs significantly faster than a single i7 processor.

This video describes an example USB2 interfaced FPGA co-processor for use with the array processing language Apl.
This co-processor implements a single scientific algorithm : Binning. As such it is an example of what can be achieved using field-programmable gate array co-processors with Apl.
The FPGA module used is the Morphic II, available from FTDI. This module has the advantage that it does not require a USB Blaster to program it.
Software, firmware and modules are also available from Lab-Tools Ltd., who are also developing a series of credit-card sized interface and data I/O modules to interface with them.
The FPGA co-processor is accessed and controlled from AplX, a version of the array processing language Apl, from Micro-Apl.

Raspberry Pi

Lab-Tools' is adding the simple credit-card sized Linux computers "Raspberry Pi" to the list of instrumentation in the design stable. These may offer very compact ways to host some of the other more advanced Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) instrumentation that Lab-Tools develops. These boards may also speed the implementation of other highly compact designs such as the multi-processing Adapteva Parallella.

So Lab-Tools has implemented a good set of technologies that are now up and running on the Raspberry Pi credit-card Linux computer :

  • SSH + SCP : control the Raspberry Pi from a text window on a Windows lap-top, transfer files.
  • TightVNC : control the Raspberry Pi from a copy of the Raspberry Pi graphical desktop, on a Windows lap-top.
    A page of technical notes to describe how to configure a Raspberry Pi with SSH + SCP + VNC, to do the above, is at :
    Lab-Tools also sells a fully up-to-date 4 GByte SD card for the Raspberry Pi, based on the Raspbian "wheezy" distribution with hardware floating point, but fully configured as above, with SSH + SCP + VNC. 10 plus postage plus VAT.
  • Apache + PHP + SQL: Serves active web pages, with optional Database Server.
    Lab-Tools also sells a fully up-to-date 4 GByte SD card for the Raspberry Pi, based on the Raspbian "wheezy" distribution with hardware floating point, but fully configured as above, with SSH + SCP + VNC + Apache + PHP + SQL. 15 plus postage plus VAT.

The first Raspberry Pi has just been configured as an active web server : URL - (this address may change soon). Useful web-server applications will be added to this in the near future.

To order, email me - Dr. Beau Webber - so I can decide on postage, then use the PayPal box below. - Raspberry Pi Web Server.
Raspberry Pi - Apache Web Server with SSH + VNC control windows on PC laptop.

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Coming Soon:

Nearing the end of design and prototype development is a range of high performance USB interfaced signal generation / digital scope / transient recording / transient averaging modules, with optional RF and low-noise pre-amp stages.

Applicable to a wide range of instrumentation, including Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Ultrasonics, capturing and processing decoded Optical information, or just general laboratory or school digital interfacing :

USB Direct Digital Synthesizer : frequency agile / sweeping: 0.001 to 150MHz, 14 bit, optional dual-channel for quadrature (real:U & imaginary:V) signals

USB Averaging Analogue Data-Capture for Digital Scope / Transient Recorder / Transient Averager uses and Digital RF : Dual Channel, 2x 0 to 65MS.s-1, 12 bit.

USB Averaging Analogue Data-Capture for Digital Scope / Transient Recorder / Transient Averager uses : Dual Channel, 2x 5 MS.s-1, 12 bit, 1V input range.

USB Averaging Analogue Data-Capture for Digital Scope / Transient Recorder / Transient Averager uses : Dual Channel, 2x 1 MS.s-1, 13 bit. Software-selectable input ranges : 10 V, 5 V, 2.5 V, 0 V to +10 V.

USB R.F. Digital-Receiver, with direct digital sampling of the RF, quadrature 32 bit digitally controlled oscillators, three stages of FIR filtering, digital output gain scaling, followed by optional signal processing and Transient Recorder/Averager stage: 0.1 to 32MHz (below Nyquist), 12 bit.

Optional additional front-end pre-amp module : very low noise : sub-nanovolt.Hz1/2, 120MHz bandwidth.

Optional data processing algorithms in firm-ware uploaded to a 80k gate FPGA over the USB interface, in less than 100 ms, so they can be re-loaded on the fly to 'morph' the function of the unit.

Optional data processing algorithms in high-level array-manipulating languages.

If you have specific requirements that can be best encompassed at the design stage, please contact me regarding them :

Example instrumentation constructed using similar Lab-Tools modules

Multi-module USB interfaced R.F. instrument for Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) research :

Novel NMR 1D-Imager

The R.F. processing is implemented in VLSI devices, the I.F. processing in a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) device, and the A.F. processing in the PC using an Array Programing language.
Note: The RF modules are Export Controlled devices.

Please contact me if you would like a copy of an existing design, or would like to commission the design and construction of a new piece of laboratory apparatus or software.
E-mail : Dr. Beau Webber
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