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New LabVIEW delivers single software for industrial control, measurement and HMI
9 August 2006, Design Automation

National Instruments has announced LabVIEW 8.20, the 20th anniversary edition of the company's LabVIEW graphical system design platform for control, test and embedded system development.

With this release, LabVIEW 8.20 enhances the industrial measurement capabilities of LabVIEW with new features designed for advanced analysis and control, improved distributed system management, and new targets for human-machine interfaces (HMIs). For instance, new libraries in LabVIEW allow engineers to use streamlined FPGA targeting tools to implement high performance, hardware-based machine monitoring and protection systems and the new LabVIEW Touch Panel Module, which helps them to use the same software to create Windows CE-based HMIs.

By introducing technology that simplifies custom controller hardware development and provides new display targets, the company says that engineers and machine builders can use one software tool to design and deploy industrial systems performing high-performance measurements, FPGA-based advanced analysis and control, communication to existing systems, and human-machine interfacing.

Single software

The new LabVIEW Touch Panel Module, along with new shared variable capabilities for communicating with handheld devices, makes it possible for automation engineers to quickly add Windows CE-based HMIs to their measurement and control systems. With the shared variable, values can be displayed from the engineer's realtime controller code directly on the custom operator interfaces often used in embedded machine control and monitoring systems. This simplifies the development of handheld systems for field-monitoring applications. For high-channel-count systems, LabVIEW 8.20's datalogging and Supervisory Control Module adds programmatic channel configuration tools to help developers dynamically define up to 2500 channels. According to NI, 8.20 also improves the performance of Ethernet-based communications for distributed systems by two times, and provides open communication to existing hardware and software through native Modbus and OPC support.

"The success of LabVIEW over the past 20 years is a result of its intuitive graphical programming environment that a broad set of engineers working in many different domains can use," says James Truchard, CEO of National Instruments. "LabVIEW continues to evolve into a powerful control software solution, bringing custom measurement and realtime execution capabilities together with industrial and advanced control algorithms for a unique, integrated platform stretching across many different applications."

Improved algorithms

With LabVIEW, engineers can develop control systems spanning from simple PID control, to advanced dynamic control systems, which helps them choose the appropriate hardware and control methodology without changing their software development approaches. In this version, NI says it has improved the execution speeds of PID control loops by up to 14 times and execution speeds of the LabVIEW Simulation Module for advanced control algorithms by up to nine times, making it possible for engineers to develop and execute complex control modules of more than 1000 nodes.

The LabVIEW 8.20 FPGA Module adds new machine monitoring functions for implementing filters, alarming and measurements, so engineers can build FPGA-based machine protection systems. By combining the rugged, compact design of CompactRIO, the reliability of FPGA-based implementation, and the ease-of-use of LabVIEW FPGA, the company says developers are able to now embed powerful protection monitoring and control systems into their industrial machines.

If engineers have already designed their algorithms in other software, with the Simulation Interface Toolkit, they can integrate these into LabVIEW for realtime control prototyping and hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) testing. Also, the new External Model Interface enables engineers to use the values from third-party plant models in the LabVIEW Simulation Module.

Rapid control prototyping and deployment

LabVIEW 8.20 streamlines the prototyping and deployment of control systems in industrial computers, FPGAs or custom designs - all using the same LabVIEW graphical programming approach. The new FPGA Wizard automatically generates FPGA I/O and timing code to embed control logic directly into FPGA hardware for high performance and reliability. With the LabVIEW FPGA Wizard, engineers have a simple approach to harness the latest FPGA technology, which means they can focus more on their control system logic.

Engineers can implement FPGA-based controllers on plug-in boards in a standard desktop PC for fast, low-cost system prototyping or in modular CompactRIO or PXI hardware platforms for industrial deployment of control systems. For the first time, says NI, engineers can use LabVIEW to take advanced control algorithms and target them directly to custom board designs based on 32-bit microprocessors using the LabVIEW Embedded Development Module.

For more information contact NI South Africa, 0800 203 199.

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