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NI R&D Spending Bears Fruit

By maintaining research spending throughout the economic downturn, National Instruments is ready today with a spate of new products.

James Truchard, co-founder and chief executive officer of Austin, Texas-based National Instruments (NI), kicked off the company’s ninth annual NIWeek Aug. 13-15 with a keynote address in front of a record crowd. The annual users group meeting features product announcements, training and exhibits by Alliance partners, not to mention RoboLab contests and other fun activities.

Truchard sounded the challenge of the week by noting, “Our vision is to make hardware disappear.” The users’ experience is through software and its interface, he explained. The more you can improve the interface, the more the hardware disappears. He also noted trends of higher frequency microprocessors and digital signal processors combined with more memory, software interfaces that bring sensor information directly into application software, and shrinking hardware that will further hide hardware from users.


NI co-founder and Business and Technology Fellow, Jeff Kodosky, concluded the opening keynote by noting that having the field programmable gate array (FPGA) chips programmable through the latest version of NI’s flagship LabView product—LabView 7 Express—is like a dream come true. First envisioned about 10 years ago, this innovation has the potential to give customers some powerfully customizable products. Another technology advancement is the addition of scripting to LabView. These technologies have been used internally to develop other new products like Compact Vision. “We’re eating our own dog food,” Kodosky stated, “and it’s good.”

The company continued to invest in research and development over the past two years of downturn in the economy, and the flood of new product announcements revealed the results.

Measurement Studio 7.0 contains a suite of native classes and controls for developing measurement and automation applications in Microsoft Visual Studio .Net 2003. The classes and controls simplify input/output (I/O) integration and user interface creation, reducing development time for engineers and scientists using that platform. It allows programming in Microsoft Visual Basic .Net, Visual C# .Net and Visual C++ .Net.

NI-DAQ 7 plus the recently released LabView 7 Express allow engineers to perform simultaneous operations significantly faster than previous versions and take measurements with comparative ease by automatically generating code with the DAQ Assistant utility. It maximizes I/O system throughput with a multithreaded driver engine to independently control each device function such as analog input, digital I/O and counter/timers. Without any special, low-level programming, engineers and scientists can realize speed increases from 100 to 1,000 times when using multiple device functions or multiple devices simultaneously.

NI LabWindows/CVI 7.0, the new release of the company's ANSI C development environment for test and measurement, features a fully integrated workspace, code-generating hardware configuration assistants and a redesigned data acquisition interface to speed development while delivering the flexibility, performance and long-term reliability of ANSI C programming.

A suite of 100 mega sample/sec PCI extensions for instrumentation (PXI) instruments increases flexibility and system performance for rapid prototyping and test of mixed-signal devices and systems.

TestStand 3.0 is designed to help engineers build and deploy automated prototype, validation and manufacturing test systems 75 percent faster. The more than 30 new features include an enhanced LabView adapter interface for instant connectivity to LabView test programs, user interface controls for faster development of custom test system operator interfaces and a new deployment utility for rapidly deploying software to test systems located locally and worldwide.

The product also offers improved connectivity with LabWindows/CVI, Microsoft Visual Basic 6.0 and Visual Basic .NET, C# and Visual C++. As a result, engineers can more easily create and debug test programs from TestStand in these programming environments. LabWindows/CVI and Visual Basic 6.0 users also can call test programs with arbitrary function definitions and custom COM interfaces, making it easier to reuse existing test code written in these environments.

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