The Sonix systems allow for synchronization through BNC ports on the Ultrasonix PCI card installed on all systems. Depending on the system, the number of ports may vary. The BNC is a 5V TTL signal by nature, however some hardware modification may needed due to filters placed on the PCI to draw out the signal and lower the amplitude for signal connectivity to thermal printer devices.
The Sonix RP has 2 BNC ports, one input and one output, and the SonixTOUCH Research has 4 BNC ports, two inputs and two outputs; the diagram below shows the configuration as installed within the system.
The diagram shows the signals on the extension cable that brings out the in and out sync signals from the Sonix Tablet
- 21 OUTPUT1
- 25 OUTPUT2
- 20 INPUT1
- 26 INPUT2
By default the pulse on the output will look as below, an approximately 25ns 1V peak-to-peak pulse. This may be inadequate for triggering some devices, therefore the instructions below should be implemented to change the characteristics.
With PCI modification as described below, the following 3-5V peak-to-peak pulse can be achieved:
By default, the Sonix systems have resistors on the PCI card to draw out the TTL pulse on the BNC output signals and reduce the amplitude to properly trigger thermal printers used, often in clinical environments. To amplify the pulse for other device synchronization including triggering the SonixDAQ, the below modifications should be made:
- Short R32 with 0 ohm resistor
- Short XR41 with 0 ohm resistor
- Remove XC32
- Remove C52
- Short R32 with 0 ohm resistor
- Remove C52
Note that for the SonixTOUCH Research, the capacitors and resistors are located on the other side of the board.
- The input BNC should receive a 3-5 V TTL pulse, with a duration of 50-100 ns in order to trigger the system properly.
- The hardware only looks at the rising edge of the signal.
- Currently, the SonixTOUCH Research only supports 1 input signal (Input BNC #1), as no method for differentiation of signals has been implemented. Note that this corresponds to Input Trigger #2 on the PCI card (also see FAQ below).
While triggering the system to acquire data, it is important to implement some safeguards with respect to frames being dropped:
- From a hardware perspective it is important not to trigger the system faster than the programmed frame rate (or PRF if in scanline mode), otherwise trigger signals will be ignored while the system is still in the process of transmitting and receiving scanline/frame data.
- From a software perspective, if a callback has been implemented in one of the SDKs, it is important not to block the callback for very long, otherwise the software interrupt will be overlooked. Typically, the amount of work in a callback should just be to memcpy() data into another buffer and set another worker thread to do the processing.
It should be noted that a frame is found through a software implemented collector thread that looks for new frame headers. The software looks for the frame header of the next frame to determine that the previous frame is ready. This is important to note as it may have some implications in programming the system. If the software were to trigger a callback when the current frame is being collected, it may recognize the frame as being valid too soon. For example, the first scanline (of a multi-scanline frame) includes the 4 byte frame header. If recognized by the thread while other scanlines are still being transmit/receive for the frame, then the copy of data from memory may be errorneous by the fact that invalid data would be contained in the memory for that frame.
The collector thread thus looks for the frame header of the next frame to ensure that the previous frame has finished its transmit/receive. This of course adds a slight delay to when the frame is actually recognized vs when the frame has actually finished acquired. This delay is small, and can be calculated at roughly FR*(1/LD), where FR is the frame-rate of imaging, and LD is the number of scanlines that make up the image.
Triggering and software interrupts can be summarized in the below diagram.
For continuous capture, the above explanation warrants only the fact that for triggered capture, at least 2 triggers must be sent to the system for a frame to be acknowledged within the collector thread. Of course, for non-continuous capture, this poses some more problems. For example, in the second frame collection from diagram above, a delay of n is imposed after triggering two frames. Once the third trigger is received, frame ID=1 will be acknowledge, which will be of course n time units in the past. A double triggering method should then be employed all the time to ensure real-time frame data is collected via software properly.
Q) I turned the Output Trigger but there is no trigger on the BNC connection in the back of the system.
Sometimes the BNC connection in the back is not directly connected to the BNC output that you need on the PCI card. If this is the case, you need to connect your BNC cable directly to the PCI card output. On SonixRP and SonixMDP, this can be done easily by opening the door underneath the console to have direct access to the PCI card. On SonixTouch, you need to open the side panel to have direct access to the BNC connections on the PCI card. Also, always check the output trigger with the scope to make sure that it is functioning the way you need it to prior to connecting to your experimental setup.
Q) I turned the Input Trigger on but nothing is happening.
This is expected. When you turn on the input trigger, the Sonix will not do any imaging unless it detects a proper trigger on the proper connector. In this mode, you need to make sure you provide the correct trigger to the correct BNC connector. Otherwise, the Sonix system will not do anything.
Q) I turned the Input Trigger on but the Sonix system does not accept my input trigger.
As we mentioned in the previous case, sometimes the BNC connection in the back is not directly connected to the BNC output that you need on the PCI card. If this is the case, you need to connect your BNC cable directly to the PCI card output. On SonixRP and SonixMDP, this can be done easily by opening the door underneath the console to have direct access to the PCI card. On SonixTouch, you need to open the side panel to have direct access to the BNC connections on the PCI card. On newer machines you will need to use Input Trigger #2. Also, make sure your input trigger meets the exact requirements mentioned above for pulse amplitude and duration.