Analog outputs are much simpler than analog inputs. To set an analog output an integer is converted to a voltage. This process is very fast, and does not experience the timing problems with analog inputs. But, analog outputs are subject to quantization errors. Figure 21.1 Analog Output Relationships gives a summary of the important relationships. These relationships are almost identical to those of the A/D converter.
Assume we are using an 8 bit D/A converter that outputs values between 0V and 10V. We have a resolution of 256, where 0 results in an output of 0V and 255 results in 10V. The quantization error will be 20mV. If we want to output a voltage of 6.234V, we would specify an output integer of 159, this would result in an output voltage of 6.235V. The quantization error would be 6.235V-6.234V=0.001V.
The current output from a D/A converter is normally limited to a small value, typically less than 20mA. This is enough for instrumentation, but for high current loads, such as motors, a current amplifier is needed. This type of interface will be discussed later. If the current limit is exceeded for 5V output, the voltage will decrease (so don’t exceed the rated voltage). If the current limit is exceeded for long periods of time the D/A output may be damaged.