Tuesday 21st February saw the National Instruments Technical Symposium 2012 reach Dublin, the final stop on a five-location tour across Britain and Ireland. And it certainly proved to be a case of “last but not least” as over fifty engineers and scientists congregated to learn about developing test, measurement and control applications using graphical system design (GSD). The delegates also had the opportunity to get hands-on with a variety of NI hardware and software, such as the LabVIEW graphical programming environment, modular instrumentation on the industry-standard PXI platform and NI CompactRIO for embedded control and monitoring.
The day kicked off with a keynote discussing the essential elements of every measurement and control application, and how engineers and scientists in the UK and Ireland are implementing the GSD approach to solve their challenges. The first example was from Protean Electric, who developed a method of integrating an electric drive system into the wheels of a vehicle, eliminating the need for a centralised drive unit, enhancing the performance of fully electric vehicles. As I’m sure you can imagine, such a novel concept for controlling a vehicle requires rigorous testing to ensure its suitability and efficacy, and this is where graphical system design came in. By automating the testing process with NI LabVIEW and CompactDAQ, not only were they able to develop their test system more quickly with intuitive graphical programming, but they were able to reduce test time from three weeks to 12 hours – a huge increase in productivity.
Another example came from the University of Oxford, where an exceptionally innovative solution is being developed for helping the blind to see. The solution is affectionately known as “Smart Specs”: glasses that incorporate a camera to detect the world around, and a bank of LEDs on the inside, which project towards the person’s eyes. Contrary to popular opinion, legal blindness does not mean the complete inability to see, most blind people have some residual sight that allows them to detect changes in contrast, and hence the changes in the LED brightness that indicates the proximity to objects in the world around them. Again, graphical system design came to the aid of the scientists who have developed this innovative system, as they used LabVIEW and the prewritten vision algorithms included to accelerate their development.
After the keynote, the group split into two: one presentation track, which discussed a variety of topics, from squeezing the utmost performance out of your LabVIEW application to the fundamentals at the heart of smart grid systems; and one hands-on track, which provided delegates the opportunity to get their first taste of LabVIEW, develop control systems on CompactRIO and even build an automated test system based upon PXI, LabVIEW and TestStand. Here are the presentations.
The seminar concluded with the much anticipated prize draw, David Kinahan from Dublin City University taking the spoils and walking away with a LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 robot. Finally, as most of the delegates headed back home, some stayed to sit the Certified LabVIEW Associate Developer Exam, continuing their journey towards industry recognised qualifications and hopefully the lofty status of Certified LabVIEW Architect in the future.
From gaining expertise in tools for graphical system design to discovering the innovative ways that engineers and scientists are improving the world around us. There will be another opportunity to get hands-on with LabVIEW and data acquisition in April 2012, when the National Instruments Measurement Roadshow will visit Belfast, Dublin and Galway.
Report from Jeremy Twait of National Instruments