A modern approach to designing, prototyping and deploying embedded monitoring and control systems, graphical system design combines the open LabVIEW graphical programming environment with commercial off-the-shelf hardware to dramatically simplify development, which results in higher-quality designs with the ability to incorporate custom design.
National Instruments Oceania managing director Matej Krajnc says the LabVIEW RIO architecture, an integral part of the National Instruments graphical system design platform, fits the New Zealand industry landscape well.
“There are so many interesting ideas coming out of New Zealand where we see that LabVIEW RIO architecture can help lower the cost of product design and development. If you design and develop products, it is very important that you minimise the cost from inception until the product appears in the market,” Mr Krajnc says.
He says CompactRIO, a LabVIEW RIO-based solution, is popular among New Zealand engineers. “What we have in the CompactRIO is a platform where smaller teams can start prototyping design on commercial off-the-shelf technologies. Engineers can focus on developing and implanting some IPs that can then be deployed on our product. And once they are happy with the design, they can then choose the platform of final deployment of their choice,” Mr Krajnc says.
Among the case studies presented at the National Instruments Technical Symposium in Auckland in November is Falcon Engineering’s use of the CompactRIO to upgrade its A-grader, an automated timber grading solution that is approved for use in the US and Europe.
“Falcon Engineering needed to take their existing IP and deploy this to a platform that provided high performance and was well suited to rugged, industrial applications. That’s where we came in with the CompactRio,” Mr Krajnc says.
The upgraded A-grader tests about 250 boards per minute, which means about four boards are being tested within one second. The test involves stimulating the board with a hammer, capturing the acoustical footprint and establishing whether the board passes or not based on an algorithm, and the tests have to happen extremely fast.
“They needed extremely fast signal processing and extremely fast and complex control. That’s what CompactRio delivered,” Mr Krajnc says.
National Instruments Embedded Systems senior product manager Brett Burger says the LabVIEW RIO architecture will also help nurture New Zealand’s ‘clean and green’ image.
“If you look at heavy industry today, whether its power generation or whether its manufacturing industry, there are a lot of enhancements that can be made to reduce environmental pollutions and reduce energy use. There are a lot of engineers and scientists that are embracing that challenge and using the LabVIEW Rio architecture to solve that problem,” Mr Burger says.
What engineers are doing is they are taking old motors and machines that were not designed to be fuel efficient but are still functional even after running for decades, and they are building advanced control systems on the latest technology to make them more efficient.
“It’s more like fuel economy for a car with all of the computers and electronic fuel injection, same thing for heavy industry, whether it’s a coal-fired power plant or a large press or steel mill operation. Retrofitting old motors and machines with these advanced control systems, you get tremendous gains in energy efficiency just by shaving off a fraction of a percent of performance improvement, just because of the large amount of energy that they use,” Mr Burger says.
“Its problems like that that I see New Zealand businesses being able to take advantage of with the CompactRIO systems.”