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National Instruments redesigns from the inside out

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Close to 4,000 engineers and professionals from around the world gathered at the Austin Convention Center in Texas for NIWeek 2013, National Instruments' annual graphical system design conference.

And they were not disappointed as NI released a slew of products and unveiled several interesting applications.

NI has redesigned the CompactRIO from the inside out giving it four times faster performance than previous generations. The new cRIO-9068 software-designed controller however, maintains full NI LabVIEW and I/O compatibility with the CompactRIO platform.

The controller includes the Xilinx Zynq-7020 All Programmable system on a chip (SoC), which combines a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor and Xilinx 7 Series FPGA fabric. 

A new Linux-based, real-time OS provides greater flexibility for both LabVIEW Real-Time and C/C++ application developers.

The new NI LabVIEW 2013 offers overhauled sample projects, an expanded training library as well as new tools to facilitate the management, documentation and debugging of complex systems.

The NI cRIO-9068 helps meet demanding embedded control and monitoring tasks while reducing development time and cost. Engineers use the CompactRIO platform to build systems that can suppress fires on cargo airplanes, generate electricity through the flight of tethered kites and precisely stack 20 tons of wet concrete.

One of the users is Lime Instruments that has developed a control system for the hydraulic fracturing market. Their solution works with a variety of existing equipment and legacy systems, withstand harsh environments and offer a high degree of reliability.

"The increased performance and capabilities, ultra-rugged specifications and affordable price of the cRIO-9068 make it ideal for our next generation of oil field and electrical grid products," said Robert Stewart, president of Lime Instruments.

"NI Linux-RT really opens up the CompactRIO system to advanced customisation," added James Ritter, software engineering manager at Lime Instruments. "We can take advantage of the remarkable amount of software in the Linux community to improve network security, more easily manage our systems remotely or use open-source code libraries with ease."

"Because so many customers have invested in CompactRIO, we took this redesign extremely seriously," said David Fuller, vice president of applications and embedded software at National Instruments. "Our R&D teams re-examined every part of the controller's design and made sweeping improvements while maintaining complete backward code compatibility."

National Instruments also announced an expanded commitment to engineering education with the release of NI myRIO. Based on the same technology as the NI CompactRIO platform, NI myRIO is smaller and more student-friendly than its industrial counterpart. 

NI myRIO includes the latest Zynq all programmable system on a chip (SoC) technology from Xilinx, which combines a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor and an FPGA with 28,000 programmable logic cells.
Using the NI LabVIEW graphical programming environment, students can program the FPGA and evolve their systems in real time, giving them the flexibility to prototype and quickly iterate on their designs.

The NI myRIO also includes 10 analog inputs, six analog outputs, audio I/O channels and up to 40 lines of digital I/O. It includes onboard WiFi, a three-axis accelerometer and several programmable LEDs in a durable, enclosed form factor.

"If I had made a list of everything I wanted in a portable I/O device, it would have looked almost exactly like the spec sheet of NI myRIO," University of Florida engineering instructor Dan Dickrell III said. "This little unit is an amazing piece of engineering."

Ensuring classroom and laboratory adaptability, NI myRIO comes with free downloadable courseware, is compatible with all NI miniSystems and connects with many third-party sensors and actuators.

In addition to the hardware ecosystem available for NI myRIO, the device is programmable in multiple environments, including LabVIEW and C/C++, allowing educators to incorporate it into their existing controls, robotics, mechatronics and embedded systems courses. 

NI also announced the cDAQ-9188XT, an 8-slot NI CompactDAQ Ethernet chassis designed for distributed or remote measurements in extreme environments. The cDAQ-9188XT can withstand temperatures from -40 to 70 °C, 50 g of shock and 5 g of vibration. Engineers in the automotive, military and aerospace industries have used it to successfully acquire data and avoid repeat tests.

"We're using the cDAQ-9188XT to track pressure, vibration, velocity and more in our jetpowered vehicle as we try to break the world land speed record," said Steve Wallace, data acquisition scientist for the North American Eagle Project. "So far it's survived everything we've thrown at it and given us great results."

In addition, the chassis is the first in the NI CompactDAQ platform to offer an onboard watchdog with defined safe states to help protect your tests and equipment. The platform includes 10 chassis options, three buses and over 50 C Series modules with a wide range of connectivity and I/O.

The platform also has native integration with NI LabVIEW system design software, which provides signal processing libraries and user interface controls designed for data visualisation.

"From single-signal benchtop measurements made in laboratories to distributed, rugged or standalone measurements made in some of the most extreme conditions on earth, it's amazing how our customers' applications have evolved over the past 25 years," said Chad Chesney, director of data acquisition marketing at National Instruments.

"By continuing to invest in NI CompactDAQ, we'll contribute to even more engineering accomplishments over the next quarter century."

Additionally, with the LabVIEW Electrical Power Suite, NI CompactDAQ users can integrate power analysis functions such as energy, frequency, voltage unbalance and event detection into their monitoring systems.

[PACE Editor Kevin Gomez filed this report from NIWeek 2013 in Austin, Texas.]

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