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5/6/2014 Computer Communication Links: RS232, RS485, USB, GPIB, Ethernet | Microlink Measurement & Control Systems

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Technical Notes: Communication Links
Connecting the hardware to the computer
Data acquisition hardware comes in many physical formats. A common type is the plug-in card which fits into a
free expansion slot in the computer. Its main advantages are its low cost and its speed. Its main drawbacks are
the limited potential for system expansion and the fact that the computer has to be located close to the signal
source. Microlink systems solve these problems by offering an extensive range of external data acquisition
hardware. You can connect this hardware to the computer in several different ways, optimising the system to your
requirements.
RS232 | RS485 | GPIB | Ethernet | USB | Summary
RS232 Serial Link
You can connect the Microlink 3000 Series to the computer with an RS232 cable, and the Microlink 826 utility
meter monitors. For logging data from instuments from other manufacturers we recommend the Windmill data
acquisition software with the COMIML serial driver.
Advantages of RS232
Up to 50 m between Microlink hardware and computer
Over 250 channels per Microlink 3000
Disadvantages
Slow, runs at up to 38 400 baud over short distances; lower speeds as the distance increases owing to
capacitance effects
Maximum logging speed with Streamer software = 700 samples per second, with Windmill software =
35 samples per second
Only one device can be connected to an RS232 cable
Computers now rarely have serial ports and a USB-serial (for example) adaptor may be needed.
More details: see our RS232 Notes.
RS485 Serial Link
You can connect the Microlink 3000 Series to the computer with an RS485 cable, and the Microlink 826 utility
meter monitors. For logging data from instuments from other manufacturers we recommend the Windmill data
acquisition software with the COMIML serial driver.
Advantages
Up to 1000 m between Microlink hardware and computer
32 Devices can be connected to one RS485 cable
More details: see Windmill's RS485 Wiring Notes.
5/6/2014 Computer Communication Links: RS232, RS485, USB, GPIB, Ethernet | Microlink Measurement & Control Systems
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Disadvantages
Slow, runs at up to 38 400 baud over short distances; lower speeds as the distance increases owing to
capacitance effects
Maximum logging speed with Streamer software = 700 samples per second, with Windmill software =
35 samples per second
RS485 adaptor card needed in computer
GPIB (General Purpose Interface Bus, also known as IEEE-488)
You can connect the 3000 Series to the computer with GPIB.
Advantages
Fast, data transfer rate with suitable Windows software = 200 000 bytes per second.
14 Devices can be connected to one GPIB
Disadvantages
Only 2 m between computer and Microlink
GPIB adaptor card needed in computer
More details: see our GPIB Notes.
Ethernet Link
You can connect the Microlink 3000 Series to the computer with an Ethernet cable, and the Microlink 840 data
loggers.
Advantages
Each cable segment can be up to 185 m
29 Devices can be connected to one cable segment
Several cable segments can be joined
Fast, maximum logging speed with suitable Windows software = 250 000 samples per second, with
Streamer software = 36 000 samples per second, with Windmill software = 120 samples per second
Up-to-the-second information can be made available to engineers and managers in their own offices, as and
when they need it
Disadvantages
Ethernet adaptor card needed in computer
Universal Serial Bus
You can connect the Microlink 700 Series and 3000 Series to the computer with a USB cable.
Advantages
8 Microlinks can be connected to one USB hub
No need to switch off the computer, or restart Windows, when plugging a Microlink into the USB port
Maximum logging speed with Windmill software = 80 samples per second
Other peripherals, like telephones or scanners, can also be connected to a USB hub
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Disadvantages
Only 5 m between computer and Microlink with one cable
Joining 5 cables with hubs gives 30 m distance
Mix and Match Communications
Any one, or a mixture, of all the communications discussed can be used in a Microlink system. A summary is
given below. The speeds quoted are with recommended Windows software, and the distances the maximum that
allow reliable results.
INTERNAL RS232 RS485 GPIB ETHERNET USB
Max Distance 0 m 50 m 1000 m 2 m
185 m
per cable
segment
5 m
per cable
segment
Max Speed
samples/sec
250 000 700 700 1 MHz 36 000 80
Number of Devices
depends
on
no. of slots
1 per
cable
31 per
cable
14 per
cable
29 per cable
segment
8
Computer Adaptor No No Yes Yes Yes No
Microlink Hardware 500 Series
3000
Series
826 units
3000
Series
826 units
3000
Series
3000 Series
840 Series
700 Series
You can find more information about communications with the computer in the
Microlink Measurement and Control Systems Catalogue which is available free from Biodata.
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