Machine Design

LabView turns twenty

Anyone who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks has obviously never seen LabView.

Mathscript combines textual math programming with graphical dataflow programming. It basically lets LabView work with m-script syntax and makes it easy to display variables, history window, and tabular and graphical data.

The combination of NI hardware with LabView 8.20 measurement and control software creates an extensive toolset for communication-design and testing, such as this system for OFDM tests.

Created 20 years ago at National Instruments Corp., LabView was once just software for data acquisition and controlling test instruments. Today, it serves as a platform for developing application software in areas ranging from robotics to steel mills.

The newest incarnation of LabView — dubbed 8.20 for its 20th anniversary — expands the package into several additional areas. First, the graphical dataflow language for which the package is known now extends native support to the well-known Matlab software from Mathworks Inc. Using what is called MathScript, engineers can bring into LabView any m-files created using Matlab software. Or they can create new scripts with LabView while mixing and matching graphical and textbased math languages.

LabView 8.20 can also incorporate algorithms from other math packages such as Maplesoft Maple, Mathsoft Mathcad, and Scilab from INRIA. MathScript lets engineers work within the command-line environment, if need be, to more easily interact with these packages or to debug a script. Users can then move to graphical programming to interact with parameters and automate tasks around the script.

Another feature of 8.20 is an extended FPGA module. It helps users define custom I/O without knowing much about hardware design or VHDL. When linked with another module of LabView called Real-time, it can potentially create a complete embedded control and dataacquisition system. The FPGA module can also incorporate third-party intellectual property from companies such as Celoxica, Xilinx, and ImpulseC. Thus companies can continue to use previously licensed software toolkits and algorithms.

This new version works closely with NI hardware and with custom devices to facilitate prototyping, hardware-in-loop testing, and implementing application programs in target systems. There are a wide range of control functions within LabView 8.20 that include FIR and IIR filters, nonlinear control, spline interpolations, dualfeedback PID, dynamic system identification and simulation, loop-rate measurements, and array manipulation. NI says the software boosts performance 14 on PID loops and lets simulations run 9 faster than previous versions.

LabView 8.20 also includes facilities for developing objectoriented applications. NI says these tend to generate code that is easier to maintain and extend for other applications. The object-oriented structure lets users create classes and objects, encapsulate data and methods, scope methods as public, private, or protected, compose classes with other classes, implement class inheritance, and perform USB virtual dispatching. With a nod to its wide use in education, NI teamed with the Lego Group to let 8.20 work more closely with the Mindstorms NXT robotics toolset. Mindstorms lets students build robots while learning science, technology, engineering, and math skills.

National Instruments Corp.,
(800) 531-5066,

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