Interfacing options on PC for power/energy detectors

We often get questions at Gentec-EO about what interfacing options are available with our power and energy detectors. Interfacing here refers to the different methods by which you can communicate with the detector, may it be to read its output, change its settings or display the measurements in a user interface, etc.

We offer multiple options in that regard, with some options requiring more tinkering to implement than the others, but in exchange, they may offer a higher degree of flexibility in what you can accomplish. We summarize them below, in order from easiest to use to most complex.

 

 

NOTE: in general, most interfacing options will require you to install the USB drivers of the meter that you are using. For example, if you are using UP19K-15S-H5-D0 with U-LINK (USB), you would install the USB drivers of U-LINK (the detector itself has no drivers). Without USB drivers, you may encounter communication problems, although in some cases, it may still work without even installing them, because they are common generic drivers. This is especially useful to know when working with Linux-based systems (discussed below).

Gentec-EO software (PC-GENTEC-EO)

The simplest and most readily available interfacing option is to go with our own software. The PC-GENTEC-EO software is compatible with most of our meters. Some legacy models use different software, but it generally works the same as PC-GENTEC-EO.

PC-GENTEC-EO provides a simple user interface with essential functions such as statistics gathering and data logging. There is also a visualization panel that allows you to see the data in real time either as a graph display, histogram display or needle display.

Below are screenshots of some of the different display modes available in PC-GENTEC-EO, including histogram, needle, scope, graph and statistics.

Working with PC-GENTEC-EO is best for users that need a quick and easy way to see the measurements and do simple tasks such as data logging. As such, it is good for service technicians of laser equipment, prototyping and testing or to get a quick measurement. In other words, it is best for users that will stay in front of the computer and operate the software directly (i.e. no automation).

PC-GENTEC-EO does not come by itself with any tools or modules that would allow you to automate certain tasks in the software (see options below for automation and scripting).

Serial communication (a.k.a. serial commands or serial API)

Serial port communication is a broad concept that refers to any sort of communication where the data is sent one bit at a time. It’s been around for quite a while and is commonly found in most industrial settings. It evolved a lot over time and the most common type of serial communication nowadays is probably the USB standard (the ‘’s’’ is for ‘’serial’’), although RS-232 remains prevalent, from our experience.

The idea with serial port communication is that one can build a script or program that sends these serial commands and reads the reply from the meter. As you may have figured out, this means that automation is possible when using serial commands, therefore this communication method gives more flexibility than using the software and is better suited for industrial settings or product integration.

Most programming languages have resources related to serial port communication. For example, in C#, the SerialPort class is where it’s at. We confirm that the first example in the previous link is how you would send a serial command in C# (most importantly, the part where the SerialPort object is created, properties such as stop bits are chosen and then the WriteLine() and ReadLine() methods).

For example, to send the *VER serial command in C#, after first initializing the port and assuming the serial port object is named ‘’serialPort’’, it would be serialPort.WriteLine("*VER");. We show a more detailed example below.

Most Gentec-EO meters come with their own list of serial commands, each of which usually replicates a function that the software already has. Refer to the manual of the meter to find them.

Also, note that most Gentec-EO meters are usually available in either USB or RS-232 form. In both cases, the serial commands would be the same: it’s the way that you would decode the output data that would change here between these two options.

The syntax of the serial commands may change from one Gentec-EO meter to another, but what you can accomplish with them is generally the same.

There are programs online that you can download that allows you to send serial commands manually one by one, which is great for testing and prototyping. Check out Hyperterminal and PuTTY, although any terminal software that supports serial port communication should work.

We have knowledge of users successfully using the serial commands of Gentec-EO products with other programming languages, such as Python and Matlab. We also have knowledge of users making it work on Linux-based systems (see below).

A note about serial communication and Linux

First thing to note about Linux is that no Gentec-EO software is currently available for Linux-based systems or macOS: our software only works on Windows.

However, we are aware of users having successfully established communication with a Gentec-EO detector on their Linux machine. We say ‘’aware’’ here because we cannot provide elaborate support for Linux and have not tested it ourselves, but through our (somewhat limited) knowledge of this operating system and thanks to the resourcefulness and cooperation of our customers, we received confirmation that serial communication is possible on Linux with some of our meter options.

More specifically, we know that INTEGRA generally works well on Linux. Our customers reported that the USB drivers for INTEGRA were generic enough to have them recognized by the machine without even installing the USB drivers from our website (which are for Windows anyway, but you get the point).

We suspect that it would also work on macOS in a similar fashion, although we have no past experience with customers using this operating system with our products.

It is just important to remember that serial port communication lies, for the most part, in the programming language that you’re using. It does not require a special module or anything: if you are on Linux and you work with a programming language that supports serial port communication (say, Python) then you should pretty much be set!

Ultimately, you can always contact us to find if we can help: even if we don’t support Linux technically, we still won’t bite.

LabVIEW

LabVIEW is a development platform made by National Instruments that incorporates a visual programming language named ‘’G’’, but it’s mostly just known as ‘’LabVIEW’’. It comes with a ton of features, to the point where the user can create his own software with UI around a piece of equipment.

Most Gentec-EO meters also come with their own LabVIEW VI examples, which are all downloadable for free on our website. The thing to keep in mind is that we once again use the serial commands here to achieve this.

If you open one of the Vis, you would see how we basically send serial commands and read the output from the meter. From there, there are a lot of possibilities: you could, for example, use *CAU to get a stream of measurement data from the Gentec-EO meter, and send this data over in a graph that is updated live in another LabVIEW window.

Again, this option is powerful and flexible because it incorporates serial commands and LabVIEW has its own tools to allow automation and data processing.

Analog (raw) signal from detector

An interfacing option that does not involve a Gentec-EO meter, just the detector alone, is to read the analog signal from the detector. This is the raw voltage that comes out of the detector.

This voltage is directly proportional to the amount of power/energy that the detector is currently reading. Our calibration process basically defines a value in V/W (or V/J) that allows you to do the conversion.

This option will require you to contact us to receive a quotation for a customized solution that will fit your needs, because analog-only solutions are not maintained in inventory at Gentec-EO.

But it’s almost better this way because there are so many things we can do: longer/shorter cable, special connector type (like Molex) or just bare wires, amplified output signal, etc. Just give us a holler and we will check what we can do for you!

The bottom line on the different interfacing options that we offer

The bottom line is that you first need to define whether you intend to automate your usage of your Gentec-EO detector or not.

If you don’t, it’s okay, we still got you covered: you should use the PC-GENTEC-EO in that case, which is great if you need a quick and simple way to work with your Gentec-EO detectors and provides anything you might need.

If you do, then go with our serial commands, which can be incorporated into your program and if coded correctly, allows automation of Gentec-EO detectors, while still enabling all functions you would find on the PC-GENTEC-EO software.

Serial communication is the only way by which one could work on Linux, so that’s one thing to keep in mind. We confirm that it works when done right, although we cannot formally support it.

Finally, there is also LabVIEW, for which we offer many VI examples, all downloadable from our website. Also, it’s possible to read the analog signal directly from our detectors, but we recommend to contact us first to know more.


Kévin Foster
Inside Sales Representative
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