Technology On Display at NI Week

National Instruments (NI, www.ni.com) is a technology company first and then a products company.

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If you ever want a feel for where the cutting edge of usable computing technology is, the keynote addresses during NI Week—the company’s annual users meeting held in NI’s home town of Austin, Texas—is a great place to start. This year’s edition, held Aug. 7-9 at the Austin Convention Center before a record crowd of more than 2,500 end users, was no exception.

James Truchard, company co-founder and chief executive officer who holds a Ph.D. and is known to the NI community as “Dr. T,” stated the technological foundations for the week’s discussions. “Concurrency may be the new revolution, like object-oriented was,” stated Truchard.

NI follows advances in the personal computer industry, and the new hardware advancement is multicore processors. These processors allow concurrent sessions on one computer—if the programming environment can take advantage of it. And NI’s LabView is just such an environment. As stated by co-founder, NI Business and Technology Fellow, and “father of LabView” Jeff Kodosky, LabView is inherently parallel in structure. In effect, this means that a program can be written such that parts of it can be processed concurrently on different processor cores with the results coming together for further processing.

Mechatronics

NI continues to develop advancements on the use of field programmable gate array (FPGA) integrated circuit chips with development of simulation on this target. Mechatronics—the merger of mechanics and electronics in motion applications—was another key word during the week, as well as advancements in working with the mechanical design software from SolidWorks.

Following two years of NI emphasis on embedded systems, machine control took on a leading position at this year’s event. In the whole mechatronics model, there is the sense of the parallel nature of machine development. The way machines are designed now relegates control design to the late stages of development. With a mechatronics model coupled with simulation from the SolidWorks mechanical design, control development earlier in the process is possible—not to mention the advantages of checking motions for interferences and control algorithms before any steel is cut.

State chart development with the ability to link directly to control code is another advancement in LabView for machine control. Developers have mapped the PackML state model from OMAC’s Packaging Work Group such that a packaging machine original equipment manufacture (OEM) could map the state chart and then program the machine. The user would then have the top-level view of the machine operation in standard format. If other state models are developed, they also could be easily mapped into LabView.

In partner news unveiled at the event, Sensicast now offers connectivity from its line of environmental wireless sensors to LabView via OPC, an open connectivity standard. Yaskawa is offering a driver for LabView and NI PCI communications to connect Yaskawa drives and motors to LabView via the Mechatrolink communication network.

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