InstrumentKit allows for the control of scientific instruments in a platform-independent manner, abstracted from the details of how the instrument is connected. In particular, InstrumentKit supports connecting to instruments via serial port (including USB-based virtual serial connections), GPIB, USBTMC, TCP/IP or by using the VISA layer.



Most of the required and optional dependencies can be obtained using pip.

Required Dependencies

Using pip, these requirements can be obtained automatically by using the provided requirements.txt:

$ pip install -r requirements.txt

Optional Dependencies

  • PyVISA (required for accessing instruments via VISA library)

Getting Started

Instruments and Instrument Classes

Each make and model of instrument that is supported by InstrumentKit is represented by a specific class, as documented in the InstrumentKit API Reference. Instruments that offer common functionality, such as multimeters, are represented by base classes, such that specific instruments can be exchanged without affecting code, so long as the proper functionality is provided.

For some instruments, a specific instrument class is not needed, as the Generic SCPI Instruments classes can be used to expose functionality of these instruments. If you don’t see your specific instrument listed, then, please check in the instrument’s manual whether it uses a standard set of SCPI commands.

Connecting to Instruments

Each instrument class in InstrumentKit is constructed using a communicator class that wraps a file-like object with additional information about newlines, terminators and other useful details. Most of the time, it is easiest to not worry with creating communicators directly, as convienence methods are provided to quickly connect to instruments over a wide range of common communication protocols and physical connections.

For instance, to connect to a generic SCPI-compliant multimeter using a Galvant Industries GPIB-USB adapter, the open_gpibusb method can be used:

>>> import instruments as ik
>>> inst = ik.generic_scpi.SCPIMultimeter.open_gpibusb("/dev/ttyUSB0", 1)

Similarly, many instruments connected by USB use an FTDI or similar chip to emulate serial ports, and can be connected using the open_serial method by specifying the serial port device file (on Linux) or name (on Windows) along with the baud rate of the emulated port:

>>> inst = ik.generic_scpi.SCPIMultimeter.open_serial("COM10", 115200)

As a convienence, an instrument connection can also be specified using a uniform resource identifier (URI) string:

>>> inst = ik.generic_scpi.SCPIMultimeter.open_from_uri("tcpip://

Instrument connection URIs of this kind are useful for storing in configuration files, as the same method, open_from_uri, is used, regardless of the communication protocol and physical connection being used. InstrumentKit provides special support for this usage, and can load instruments from specifications listed in a YAML-formatted configuration file. See the load_instruments function for more details.

Using Connected Instruments

Once connected, functionality of each instrument is exposed by methods and properties of the instrument object. For instance, the name of an instrument can be queried by getting the name property:

>>> print(

For details of how to use each instrument, please see the InstrumentKit API Reference entry for that instrument’s class. If that class does not implement a given command, raw commands and queries can be issued by using the sendcmd and query methods, respectively:

>>> inst.sendcmd("DATA") # Send command with no response
>>> resp = inst.query("*IDN?") # Send command and retrieve response

OS-Specific Instructions


Raw USB Device Configuration

To enable writing to a USB device in raw or usbtmc mode, the device file must be readable writable by users. As this is not normally the default, you need to add rules to /etc/udev/rules.d to override the default permissions. For instance, to add a Tektronix DPO 4104 oscilloscope with world-writable permissions, add the following to rules.d:

ATTRS{idVendor}=="0699", ATTRS{idProduct}=="0401", SYMLINK+="tekdpo4104", MODE="0666"


This configuration causes the USB device to be world-writable. Do not do this on a multi-user system with untrusted users.