Testing in 2014 – looking forward!

28/02/2014

National Instruments has released its Automated Test Outlook 2014, highlighting the company’s research into the latest test and measurement technologies and methodologies. Engineers and managers can use the report, which examines trends affecting a wide range of industries, to take advantage of the latest strategies and best practices for optimising any test organisation.

ato_2014_4_colThis look into the future explores the following:

Business Strategy: Organisational Proficiency
The talent pool for test engineers is shrinking and test managers must improve organisational proficiency through smarter hiring, better onboarding and greater investment in training to ensure a properly skilled and staffed test organisation.

Architecture: Managed Test Systems
New technologies deliver greater feature sets on test equipment, helping test managers monitor the health of their test systems, lowering test costs and maximising uptime.

Computing: Cloud Computing for Test
Traditional test frameworks limit profitability by not providing the ideal balance of performance and cost or the ability to scale based on actual product demand. Similar to the IT industry, cloud computing applied to automated test can alleviate these growing test concerns.

Software: Scalable Test Software Architectures
Pressure to deliver test systems faster with fewer resources shifts software strategies away from rigid, inflexible solutions in favour of software-based platforms to maximise longevity and scalability across a product’s lifecycle and across new product designs.

I/O: Redefining the Notion of Sensors
The number of sensors in products has significantly increased, challenging test managers to keep up with new technologies and adapt to this growing need. Test managers need agile test solutions they can change as quickly as the sensor-integrated products they test.

Automated Test Outlook 2014 is based on academic and industry research, user forums and surveys, business intelligence and customer advisory board reviews.


So much geek at NIWeek! A virtual attendee reports virtually!

12/08/2013

Engineers are the future. Keep inspiring another generation!

David Bocanegra - “EV3 software is awsome…”

David Bocanegra – “EV3 software is awsome…”

We have never been able to manage to get to NI Week, which is held annually in Austin Texas, more than 4000 miles away from Ireland as the crow flies. However we have been able to attend vicariously, via twitter, the live-streaming of keynotes and the blogs and releases issued during and immediately afterwards.

It has sometimes been said that in one way it is better to watch the twitter feeds than actually being there! It can certainly be as demanding on time and looking at a computer screen can be pretty exhausting. Indeed with the advance of hand-held units, iPads and phones, which can be connected all the time, the quantity, if not always the quality, of tweets was fairly intense. Of course its great disadvantage is the inability to provide the experience of face to face social intercourse, (nor the sometimes unpleasant aftermath of too-late nights!)

We have gathered the links to articles, blogs and pr material as we became aware of them and put them in a box on our Home Page to assist the busy engineer, nerd or geek who wanted a quick place to see these without having to trawl through what seemed like thousands of tweets. We have included that box below this article.

tweetingliveTweet overload!
The enthusiasm of these National Instruments events is legendary and it continually seeped through these social media sharings. Things like “My biggest takeaway from every #niweek keynote: science and engineering are freakin cool!” (@TheRealAdamKemp ) or “Dr T kicked off #NIWeek 2013 by talking about Graphical System Design, Industry 4.0 and Cyber-Physical systems (oh, and bagpipe tuners!)” (@mjg73 ) and “My twitter news feed is blown up because of #niweek :) totally not complaining! LOVE the new #roboRIO (so jealous I don’t get to use it)” (@alexkay4235 ). Another reported “Nearly 4,000 attendees packed in for the #NIWeek conference with over 1,000 streaming online!..” And more wonder & delight, “3rd year here, and the #NIWeek keynote intro still raises the hair on my neck!” (@Backerthebiker) or “Dang! Opening video presentation at #NIWeek 2013 was AWESOME! Kicking off this year’s conference with a big boom.” (@lindseyjo23); “Ready for another day of great madness! Love #NIweek” (@Fabiola31416).

Dr James Truchard

Dr James Truchard

In think you get the idea!

The technology
Co-Founder Dr James Truchard kicked of in his inimitable style. The enthusiasm he generates is perhaps comparable to that generated by the founder of Apple though his style is completely different and perhaps understated though very real. He spoke about platforms and the future of virtual instrumentation. “From cyber physical systems to big Analog data solutions, graphical system design provides a platform based approach for measurement and control!”

Jeff Kodosky

Jeff Kodosky

The Applications
The second day commenced with a presentation by the other side of the foundation duo, Jeff Kodosky – the Father of Labview. Fostering discovery – using Labview in the most difficult applications. These include the iconic CERN project in Europe, sensitive healing technologies for cancer treatment and facilitating food production in otherwise impossible areas.

Inspiring and Preparing the Next Generation of Innovators
“High school kids created these robots!”
Day three Ray Almgren discussed Inspiring and Preparing the Next Generation of Innovators, always a strong suite with National Instruments. However we have no intention in treating on these “keynote” sessions. No! National Instruments with their usual efficiency, have provide professional videos of NIWeek 2013 Keynote Presentations and they are well worth looking at. They have divided each days keynotes into four sections which means that one can navigate to the topics/technologies of interest.

There are a few presentations which impressed your correspondent.

The young are always impressed with robots. We were introduced to David Bocanegra, a youthful programmer (10 years old), using the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® EV3 system. He demonstrated his skill and the versitality of the EV3 software. When asked he enthusiastically responded “EV3 software is awsome…” (See pic at top of page!)

We saw some high-school students using the NI roboRIO on a frisbie fairing robot. They started the system and there was a pregnant pause interrupted by one of them saying “Uh-oh!” One of the Nat Instrument guys (Ray Algrem) came across to see what was wrong but obviously the students had it under control as they explained what the robot was doing while nothing could be seen.

“What’s the probability of success?” he asked dubiously.

“High!” was the confident (and indignant) response of the students! And they were right!

They then used the doubting presenter for target practice as they used him in a William Tell-like exercise of shooting a bottle of his head with a frisbee! Wonderful stuff!

Dr Red Whittiker & Lunar Lander

Dr Red Whittiker & Lunar Lander

Two other presentations on the third day were both to do with space. A memorable presentation from NASA’s Associate Administrator of Education, Leland Melvin. He shared his time on the International Space Station and his experience with robotics in space. Finally a presentation from Dr Red Whittaker, Carnegie Mellon University, on a planned robotic expedition to the moon to explore mineral resources there. The extraordinary machine that will be landing and doing the work was shown. Watch out for news of the pin-point landing and exploration in October 2015. Fascinating stuff.

Finally these tweets “I know I say it every year, but this was THE BEST #NIWEEK EVA!” (@crelfpro ) and “Had a great time @NIWeek! Already excited for next year.” (‏@TandelSystems).

Invitation!
“Thanks for attending #NIWeek 2013. We had a blast & hope you did too. Stay social & tell us what you liked best!” (@NIglobal)

Oh yes! Next year they do it (or something like it) all over again. Mark your diary – NI Week 2014 – 5th to 7th August 2014 in Austin Texas USA. 

NIWeek 2013

NI Week on twitter #NIweek!

7 Steps to to Making the Most of NI Week

Social Media Guide at NI Week (Slideshow - #NIWeek tweets are more powerful with photos.)

Live Keynotes (National Instruments’ videos in digestible chunks!)

Check out LabViewNI.com for LABVIEW NEWS INFORMATION

Blogs and Reports

(We’ll probably have missed a few so check out the tweets etc!)

NIwk13

Bloomy Controls Awarded Most Outstanding Technical Resources (PR Web, 22/8/2013)

cDAQ, cRIO, myRIO, PXImc und natürlich LabVIEW ((Hans Jaschinski, all-electronics.de 20/8/2013)

Cold Fusion Demo in Texas – More Pictures (DRbobblog, 16/8/2013)

NI Week 2013: The Enable highlight reel! (Ben Zimmer, Enable Education, 14/8/2013)

NIWeek 2014 dates announced (Radio Electronics 12/8/2013)

Instrument Maker Puts Education Center Stage (Douglas McCormack, IEEE Spectrum, 12/8/2013)

Reach of software-designed instrumentation for electronic test extended (Read-out Signpost, 12/8/2013)

National Instruments’ CEO Hosts Investor Conference (Transcript) (Seeking Alpha, 10/8/2013)

Record-breaking Attendance, Groundbreaking Products (NICommunity News, 9/8/2012)

National Instruments adds to their platforms (Larry Desjardin, EDN Network, 9/8/2013)

National Instruments promotes lifelong science, engineering education (Mary Gannon, Connector Tips, 9/8/2013)

Engineering Innovation at National Instruments’ NIWeek (Laura Lorek, Silicon Hills News, 9/8/2013)

Technologies & tutorials highlight week (Vision Systems Design, 9/8/2013)

Take care of the village people (New Electronics, 9/8/2013)

Students can design sophisticated systems in one semester (Read-out, 9/8/2013)

The Fourth Industrial Revolution Is Here (Rob Spiegel,Design News, 8/8/2013)

NIWeek’ displays latest in science, tech (Jess Mitchell , Austin YNN, 8/8/2013)

Electric Utility Distributes Control to Move Grid Into 21st Century (Aaron Hand, Automation World, 8/8/2013)

The Outsider’s Guide to NIWeek 2013 (Matt Migliore, Flow Control, 8/8/2013)

Places to be this week (Martin Rowe, EE Times, 8/8/2013)

Ditch the Lab: Take measurements in rugged environments (Read-out, 8/8/2013)

Programming Lego Mindstorms using RTI DDS Toolkit for LabVIEW (Merwin Shanmugasundaram, RTI, 8/8/2013)

Custom hardware is dead (New Electronics, 8/8/2013)

Fun at NIWeek (Mary Gannon, MotionControl Tips, 8/8/2013)

National Instruments redesigns NI CompactRIO from the inside out (Read-out, 8/8/2013)

NI Week hat im texanischen Austin begonnen (Hendrik Härter, Elektronik Prazis, 7/8/2013)

Platforms in a programmable world (New Electronics, 7/8/2013)

Day 2 of NI Week is “applications day!” (Paul Heney, Mobile Hydraulic Tips, 7/8/2013)

Engineers solve $10-billion spoiled milk issue (Davif Yeomans, KXAN, 7/8/2013)

NI Unveils New Products and Glimpses of Future for Automation, Test and Measurement (Gary Mintchell, Manufacturing Connection, 7/8/2013)

NI cDAQ-9188XT Introduced for Rugged Environments at #NIWeek (Radio Electronics, 7/8/2013)

Wineman Technology Simplifies Complex Control for Test Cell Applications with INERTIA™ 2012 (PR Newswire, 6/8/2013)

Cyberphysical Systems Will Boost Manufacturing Performance (Gary Mintchell, Manufacturing Connection, 6/8/2013)

NI Week’s cool apps on display (J LOve, EDN Network, 6/8/2013)

Jet vehicle at NI Week turns heads (David Yeomans, KXAN, 6/8/2013)

Custom Hardware Design Is Dead (Janine Love, EETimes, 6/8/2013)

NI Week 2013 and the big data revolution (Paul Heney, Mobile Hydraulic Tips, 6/8/2013)

Industrial Controllers Evolve with FPGAs (David Greenfield, Automation World, 6/8/2013)

LabVIEW 2013 helps users focus on innovation Instead of infrastructure (Read-out Signpost, 6/8/2013)

Start of the never ending tour (New Electronics, 6/8/2013)

Items of NI News on Modular Connections (Starts 5th August)

NI Week: Hotter than Austin in August (Microwave Journal 5/8/2013)

Wineman Technology Selected to Showcase INERTIA™ Software Platform at NIWeek 2013 (5/8/2013)

Pictures & Videos

 Scenes from NI Week 2013 (Machine Design, Photo Gallery, 12/8/2013)

• Design World: Day 1 : Day 2

• Niweek expo hall in 6 seconds (VI Shots)

• A less frenetic glimps of the NIWeek Editor experience! (1.07 min video!)

So much geek at #NIWeek!

Although Read-out was unable to sail over to Austin however we did make it to last years NI Day event in London (GB). Here is what we said about it! No boxes with magic pixies at Westminster!

State of control and safety in manufacturing and power generating industries!

29/07/2013

This paper was written by a team at Premier Farnell. Premier Farnell is a distributor of electronics technology.

The power generation industry has gone through many changes in the last 50 years or so and the controls and safety features that were based primarily on the pneumatic controls are now taken over by electronic controls (with its own set of integrated systems resistors, and capacitors) and/or the Digital Control Systems, Furnace safeguard Supervisory Systems (FSSS) and computer controlled systems. The automation systems have improved over the years and now a standard has emerged for the power generating industries. The general improvements in the systems can be enumerated as below. The systems in a boiler control are generally divided in five sections; wiz, drum level controls, steam temperature control, boiler pressure controls, and furnace safeguard Supervisory Systems (FSSS) as also auxiliary interlocks; apart from the boiler water chemistry control. The boiler water chemistry is a separate control not normally associated with other controls and will not be discussed here.

System for drum level controls
Earlier the controls were based on water level in the drum. Sometimes when the steam demand went down the decrease in water level (because of increase of pressure) would tend to supply more water to the drum. This anomaly was rectified by the introduction of a three level control for the boiler drum. In the new system, the difference in the steam flow and the water flow was the main element for control of drum level with correction from drum level adding to the better control. The drum level system can be independent control with its own electronic controls consisting of resisters transistors and capacitors or integrated circuits.

Figure 1: Three element control

Figure 1: Three element control

The system was further refined with pressure and temperature correction from steam parameters. This resulted in better management of drum level. The three element control with the compensation has not undergone any major change over the last 50 years and is now the industry standard.

Figure 2: Three element controls modified

Figure 2: Three element controls modified

Control for boiler pressure
The pressure control has changed from just pressure control to the addition of other parameters like air flow, fuel flow, and the fuel calorific value for pressure control. The online efficiency calculations are also now integrated along with fuel pressure controls. The primary air, secondary air measurements also assists the control of boiler pressure in the system.

Figure 3: Boiler pressure control

Figure 3: Boiler pressure control

Furnace safeguard Supervisory Systems (FSSS)
The FSSS system makes sure that there is no uncontrolled fuel that can cause explosion in the boiler at any stage. The flame is sensed by photo sensors and as long as the flame is available, the supply of fuel is continued to the burners. The absence of flame shuts off all the fuel in the furnace system. Of course the flame sensing is done by two out of three sensors so that at any stage at least two sensors are working and any dependence on a single flame sensor is avoided. Failure of two sensors to see a flame is a signal to close all the fuel supply to the furnace. The fuel can be in solid, liquid or gaseous form. All the fuel in any form will be cut off irrespective of the condition of boiler pressure. The fuel supply cannot be re-started unless the complete purging of fuel is ensured. For ensuring of absence of any fuel in furnace, the furnace is purged with 30% of air flow for 5 minutes and then only the new supply of fuel can be introduced. The purging is done irrespective of the reason of trip. Here also better flame sensors and better

The functions of FSSS are,

  1. Starting of furnace purge after conditions of auxiliary interlocks are satisfied
  2. Permit starting of fuel introduction
  3. Making sure that burners start working only when an auxiliary flame exists
  4. Stopping of all fuel to boiler when flame is extinguished or no longer detected.

FSSS has three units, wiz indicating and operator’s console, relay and logic cabinet with its own electronic circuits of transistors, resistors and capacitors, relays, timers, AC and DC supplies and the fuel trip system.

Figure 4: Typical FSSS panel

Figure 4: Typical FSSS panel

Steam temperature controls
The steam temperature controls ensure that the metals used in construction of the boiler are below the safe limits under which they can operate. The control of steam temperature can be achieved by many means, but the most effective control is achieved by attemperation of steam in the area between the primary and the secondary superheaters. Any increase of temperature can affect the life of parts and may even cause failure of metals of the final superheater.

Figure 5: Steam temperature control

Figure 5: Steam temperature control

Boiler alarm panels that were previously hard wired have started to become much more sophisticated panels. For example, previously changing alarm settings was only possible with the help of an instrument engineer, now the operator of the panel is able to fine tune the alarm setting.

Figure 6: Boiler indicating and alarm panel

Figure 6: Boiler indicating and alarm panel

All these systems were operated as independent systems with no outside communication. These were known as single loop controllers with their own logic. The trip systems operated independently and had no effect on the other entities in a power plant like the turbine, generator or the electrical systems. Additional reliability was introduced with the help of two out of three systems of primary sensing elements. With all of them agreeing on the value of the sensing element, the average value was used for control. When one of them gave a value beyond a permissible error, it was ignored and the other two were used for calculations and an alarm about the third one going out of service was given to the operator. This increased the reliability of the system, something that was not possible with the pneumatic systems.

Other systems like the water management and fire fighting systems could not be integrated with the overall systems, even though operators could get information through hard wired systems. In emergencies, some of these systems were often ignored, resulting in less than ideal ways of handling the emergency.

The next major change was the introduction of a Digital Control System (DCS) and the use of software in the boiler control system. All the above controls were previously independent of one another, but the introduction of DCS and computer software in alarm and emergency handling systems brought the safe shut down of the boiler, turbine and generator. The system of programmable logic controls and the mechanical relays for protection of generators slowly gave rise to the electronic relays in electrical systems and its integration with the DCS.

The architecture of the DCS is local control supervised by additional layers that overlook the entire system. The individual control level of the drum, pressure control, FSSS of boiler, as well as the control of auxiliary interlocks turbine and generator protection, are individual systems which have their own logics and system of alarm generation for decentralized controls, but the information is sent to a higher level where the safety system takes over in emergencies.

In case of emergency situations in individual areas, the system can have its own set of controls over the change in parameters to handle the situation. The safety of the entire system takes precedence over the individual systems and the safe shutdown of the entire system gets activated.

While the individual controls are meant for the control of a single parameter, the alarm system signals the operator about the abnormal condition. The operator can take over the situation and bring the system back to normal. In case the operator is unable to do so and the situation threatens to get out of hand, the shutdown system comes into play. At this stage the operator cannot have any involvement and can only oversee the system shutting down safely.

Overall, the change from individual controls, to dedicated single loop controllers with redundant sensing elements to the DCS formed the line of change to the present method of state of control and safety in manufacturing and power generating industries.


LXI for Collider Signal Monitoring at CERN

22/05/2013
David Owen, Business Development Manager at  Pickering Interfaces talks about an application in one of the most complex scientific sites on the planet.

cern

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), has come to the forefront of public attention recently with the discovery of the Higgs boson – the so called God’s particle. CERN operates a high energy collider 100m under the Swiss and French border near Geneva to explore the boundaries of high energy physics. It is high energy physics on a huge scale, matched by no other facility in the world.

The collider operates a pair of counter- rotating particle rings which have crossovers at four experiment sites where particles crash from opposite directions into each other and create the signatures that indicate the presence of short lived particles, and that has recently included the Higgs.

Much of the attention is focussed on the experiments which have to run to capture all the data available in order to identify new particles. However monitoring of the ring itself is also a major undertaking and this is accomplished through the Open Analogue Signal Information System, referred to as OASIS. Signals from the collider monitors can be tapped at many places to make sure all is well in the system.

Even a large budget operation like CERN though has to make sure that its budget matches the finances available from sponsoring governments (and therefore tax payers in many countries), so this system has to be cost effective. The OASIS system uses a set of digitisers to acquire the signals and this is relayed out to users over an Ethernet system, but the digitisers are expensive and there cannot be one digitiser for every monitor signal. A switching system is used to allow OASIS to select which signals to show from the variety of signals available, and that switching system has historically been based on VXI and more recently cPCI solutions, but that is changing.

CERN Upgrade
CERN is undergoing a major 2 year upgrade to its systems so the collider energy can be raised (almost doubled) and more new physics explored. The collider has now been closed down (as of February 2013) for this scheduled upgrade, and more upgrades will occur in the future. Inevitably part of that upgrade process requires the OASIS system to be upgraded.

The monitor signals present some challenges to a switching system. CERN concluded they wanted to be able to select up to 16 out of a maximum of 104 signals available for digitizing at each location. The analogue signals have frequency content to many MHz and there is potential for considerable differences in level from the different monitors. That put major constraints on the allowable crosstalk between channels as well as the bandwidth. If a signal from a high level source was selected and a signal from a low level source at the same time on a different channel then the large signal could breakthrough into the smaller signal and confuse the operators.

Another significant issue for CERN is the sheer size of the collider, you cannot walk from one location to another in any reasonable time – the tunnel is even equipped with bicycles to speed up transportation between locations. Management at a distance is an essential requirement for any solution.

Designing a New OASIS Switch
CERN approached Pickering Interfaces for ideas on a new switching system to be deployed during the scheduled upgrade. The basic requirement was for a matrix with 10’s of MHz of BW and a size of up to 104×16. Discussions made it apparent that crosstalk would be a major concern in any implementation, and the sheer size of the matrix required made it hard to use traditional approaches to solve the problem, meet the performance objectives and meet the budget requirements.

Clearly the cost of the matrix had to be significantly lower than placing a digitiser on each analogue signal. The preferred platform was PCI in an industrial computer but it became very apparent that the fixed modular structure of PCI did not lend itself to this sort of switching system, and the same problems applied to cPCI and PXI.

Figure 1. The CERN requirement requires a matrix to connect up to 104 analogue sources to up to 16 digitisers

Figure 1. The CERN requirement requires a matrix to connect up to 104 analogue sources to up to 16 digitisers

To implement a high performance matrix of this type required the switching system to determine the form factor of the final solution – and that ruled out using anything which could be described as fixed modular format. A modular approach was needed to make the matrix system size scalable as different locations required different sizes of matrix – one location might require a 64×16, another might require a 104×16. Systems could also have their requirements changed with time as the number of sensors changed and more (or less) channels added. That strongly indicated that a proprietary scalable modular approach was going to be required, the modules sized to fit the design requirement of the matrix. That encouraged Pickering Interfaces to investigate an LXI route where there is a freedom of size.

LXI Route
LXI had some major advantages for CERN, much of their system was already running Ethernet data connections so using it to manage a matrix was not an issue. LXI control also means that they could access the matrix state over their network without intervening controllers by accessing the LXI products web server.

During discussions another issue arose, the experiments being conducted on the collider are large and expensive operations and the last thing that CERN wanted was to find that a switch in the matrix had developed a fault and was preventing monitoring operations. Knowing that Pickering Interfaces had implemented self-test in both LXI and PXI (called BIRST) CERN requested some sort of self-test in the switching system, and ideally because the switch needed coaxial connectors the test had to be capable of running with the inputs and outputs connected to a non-powered source/load. Being able to initiate and run a self-test remotely would also be a powerful tool for OASIS.

65-110-Photo 65-110-Chassis-Open

Figure 2. 65-110 wideband modular chassis 48×16 matrix, with the drawer system out the plugins can be added or removed

The solution arrived at for CERN was the 65-110 Wideband Modular Matrix. The switching matrix is based on a chassis which has a dedicated analogue bus system. Into the chassis a set of plugins can be installed, the left hand pair providing the 16 Y access connections required for the digitisers. A set of X plugins then provide the analogue signal inputs, 8 signals to a plugin module. The number of X plugins can be scaled from just one (8off X connections) up to 13 (104 off X connections), allowing the user to create a matrix of any required size within the chassis constraints. Not installing the second Y plugin allowed Y=8 systems to be created – though CERN had no specific requirements for that configuration other users might find it an advantage if they had smaller system requirements. The design is fully user configurable, plugin modules can be physically installed and uninstalled and the firmware in the LXI controller will recognise the configuration and amend the available matrix size to match the plugin modules installed. The web based soft front panel, a feature strongly encouraged by the LXI standard, allows driverless control of the matrix.

Figure 3. The soft front panel of the 65-110 can be accessed through the LXI configuration pages to either control or monitor the matrix settings. The LXI controller presents the matrix as a single entity, greatly simplifying the user understanding of the setting

Figure 3. The soft front panel of the 65-110 can be accessed through the LXI configuration pages to either control or monitor the matrix settings. The LXI controller presents the matrix as a single entity, greatly simplifying the user understanding of the setting

The matrix is a modular solution, but the module size is scaled to fit the application rather than to abide by a particular standard. The 65-110 plugin and analogue bus system had to be very carefully designed to maintain the RF performance, and in particular the crosstalk, to ensure it was fit for the application. The RF BW in a typical configuration is above 300MHz, driven largely by the need for low crosstalk, and has excellent VSWR.

Like many modern instruments the modules communicate internally to the LXI controller via a PCIe interface and the LXI controller “virtualises” this as a single matrix, so the LXI controller makes the user task of programming the matrix much easier. The LXI controller hides the complexity of the switch system from the user, the matrix appears as just one entity to the user and not a set of separate sub-assemblies (modules). It behaves like a bench instrument rather than a modular instrument.

The design uses an analogue bus underneath the plugin modules rather than being at the back of the plugin which is normally the case with modular systems – in a matrix it makes much more sense to have the X and Y signals lines at right angles to each other to improve crosstalk and isolation. This is a feature of LXI – there are no particular restraints on the size of the modules or the placement of an analogue bus so Pickering Interfaces were able to design a modular structure to suit the switching requirements.

Figure 4 The web interface on 65-110 allows easy access to the self test facility through the standard LXI cofiguration pages.

Figure 4 The web interface on 65-110 allows easy access to the self test facility through the standard LXI cofiguration pages.

The 65-110 includes a self-test facility checks all the signals paths for failed relays (closed, open or high resistance). The design uses low level signals so that the user connections do not need to be disconnected in order to run the test (a time consuming process with over 100 coaxial leads connected, and not very practical given the distances involved) and the self-test can be initiated over the LXI compliant web interface without the use of an external controller program while a user is many kilometres from the matrix. The user simply initiates the test, the embedded LXI controller runs the test and the results can be viewed over the web interface or reported to the user as a file.

References:
Animation shows LHC Data Processing
Engineering at CERN
The Accelerator Complex
Project OASIS

A monitor facility is also included in Pickering Interfaces LXI products that allows a user to graphically display the matrix setting without having any program access to the matrix – LXI systems allow the easy creation of systems where multiple controllers are present. One controller can be setting the switch, a different controller can be monitoring what is the settings are without disrupting the programming.

Summary
The CERN requirement shows why LXI provides an excellent platform for the creation of difficult switching systems where the performance objectives are high, the switch is complicated and easy remote access is required. CERN will be making full use of the LXI aspects of 65-110 as part of the OASIS system during its next rounds of experiments running at ever higher collider energies.


No boxes with magic pixies at Westminster!

26/11/2012
“So many great presentations today at #NIDaysUK …. We’re like a bunch of kids in the sweetie shop!” (A tweet on the day!)

Robert Morton, MD of National Instruments UK & Ireland welcomes delegates.

Youth, excitement and enthusiasm! These were the first impressions at the event organised by theNational Instruments Ireland and UK organisation in the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre just across from historic Westminster Abbey and its famous school.

Releases at NIDays
Among the best in the world!
Customisable Monitoring and Control Systems
PXI programmable resistors
Finalists in the 2012 Graphical System Design Achievement Awards
Labview 2012: New version improves scalability of measurement & control systems
First all-hybrid PXI express chassis features 8 Links to Every Slot
NI unveils industry’s fastest PXI embedded controller with 3rd generation Intel® Core™ i7 processor
Software defined radio module used in leading 5G wireless research
Co-operation with Cardiff University on nonlinear RF network analysis technology
Vector nnetwork analyser cuts cost of test
Spectrum monitoring receiver
DAQ system for high-performance embedded measurements and logging
3-D Vision for seamless hardware and software integration
Support for USB3 Vision Standard

Although called NIDays (the US equivalent is NI Week which takes rather longer!) it was in fact held on one day, 20th November 2012 although the number of threads or tracks (eleven in all) meant that one had to be very aware of what exactly one wanted to attend and indeed in our experience there were some unavoidable clashes which we have had to try to catch up on using twitter. (NI Days are held in many venues throught the world and we are giving our impressions on the one for Ireland and Great Britain.)

Keynote one
The event opened with the keynote address from National Instruments co-founder Dr James Truchard, who is President and CEO. Dr T as he is known throughout the organisation gave an interesting run down on the development of the company and the technology leading to the 21st centuray offering presented today. Moore’s Law is a computing term which originated around the 70s; the simplified version of this law states that processor speeds, or overall processing power for computers will double every two years. What occured during the history of National Instruments was quite revolutionary in that the unit in the process control loop of sensor – instruments – final control element, has changed. Thus the central item, the instrument, is no longer hardware but software and it is no longer separated but embedded within the system. This has an important impact on process and testing procedures not always understood within the automation sector.
He encapsulated the impact of the technologies. “To do for test and measurement what the spreadsheet did for financial analysis.” and “To do for embedded what the PC did for the desktop.”  In the end it is all “about virtual instrumentation.”

As part of this introductory session NI’s Regional Academic Marketing Engineer, Graham Green, presented exciting insights ito several developements including such diverse applications as CERN, Astronautical applications, to academic projects which while apparantly had little practical application they did help train the engineers of the future in learning the possibilities of what can be done.

Mathew Surridge, Portsmouth University, explains the Quadcoptor (on right)

One of these was presented by a student from Portsmouth University, Matthew Surridge, who with his collegues produced an unique flying macine model – the Quadcopter – using FPGA( field-programmable gate array) and a Real-Time Processor, Digital & Serial I/O and LabVIEW. The actual unit was on stage and was allowed show some of its paces but, for health and safety reasons, and to the disapointment of at least one attendee, its flying was confined to a small transparent container. However we did see a short video of the unit in controlled flight.

Stig at NI Days!

In another memorable demonstration this time of in-vehicle logging using racing cars an apparantly anonomous Racing Driver (right) came on stage to opearate the system for us. This was later revealed to be the indefatigable Dr T. (We learned a new term “Stig” here and displayed our ignorence of current British television programmes!)

There was a brief presentation on the delivering of clean power developed to enable mobile comms infrastructure in rural Africa by Dr Mike Rendall with Diverse Energy’s  “Powercube.” And two medical Doctors showed passive acoustic detection using LabVIEW and NI FlexRIO to improve ultrasonic tumour therapy.

This keynote was catagorised well on twitter: “Stimulating start to #NIdaysuk with exciting short presentations, medical, scientific, industrial, academic, environmental, and fun apps!”

That it certainly was!

Panel
Unfortunately we missed the panel discussion,“Are New Engineering Graduates Ready for Industry?” This formidable panel comprised Mike Sutton, Technical Fellow at Lubrizol, Jose Lopes, Head of Technical Excellence at Jaguar Land Rover, Prof Martin Levesley, Director of Teaching & Learning at Uni of Leeds, Dr Rhys Morgan, Head of Secretariat to E4E, Raspberry Pi co-founder, Dr Robert Mullins and NI CEO, Dr James Truchard. The panel was moderatored  by John Pullan, Editor of Environmental Engineering.

Tweets emintaing from this were very stimulating: “Who should be doing more to graduate engineers ready for industry? Companies? governments? universities? Who is at fault.” “Dr Rhys Morgan, Education for Engineering (E4E) raised chuckle in #NIDaysUK panel discussion ‘computers not just boxes with magic pixies in..'” I was sorry to have missed this however later on the press people had a discussion with Dr Robert Mullins and the unique Raspberry project which helped fill in some of the matters raised.

Display
All through the day the exhibition areas were open and were well attended throughout and there were also multiple opportunities for hands-on technical sessions.

This is it! Costs less than €30.00

Keynote two
The keynote in the afternoon was delivered by Dr Robert Mullins, who is a co-founder and trustee of the Raspberry Pi Foundation. This  isa charity, of which this writer was unaware to foster the interest of  school-going youth in  computer science in particular and in the almost unlimited possibilities available through this discipline. The Raspberry Pi computer has sold in the hundreds of thousands since its launch earlier this year (2012). The hope is that these flexible low-cost machines will help build a generation that can confidently control, adapt and exploit the digital world. This talk described the Raspberry Pi story so far, the motivation for the project and the journey since launch. He described some of the projects that are exploiting the Raspberry Pi and the significant challenges that must be overcome to ensure the original goals are met. His Foundation created the Raspberry Pi computer with the hope of helping to inspire, enthuse and educate the next generation of scientists, designers and engineers and it appears that the success so far extending far beyond Britain shows the validity of this hope.

We than heard Kyle Voosen, appointed last year as Marketing Director, NI UK & Ireland, then explored the frontiers of LabVIEW. Examining an exciting variety of applications, prototypes and research, from mobile measurements and cloud integration to high-level synthesis and multirate digital signal processing.

All in all it was a worthwhile experience with measurable excitement and the ageless exuberence usually associated with youth.


Other Reports

NI, Raspberry Pi and the next generation of engineers (Electronic Product Design 21/11/2012)

Industry must attract more graduates, says NI’s CEO (Electronics Weekly 26/11/2012)

National Instruments CEO Dr James Truchard (Jon Exell, The Engineer 27/11/2012)


Communications, steady as she goes while Galway parties! ‪#volvooceanrace‬

03/07/2012

It is unusual for us to have an application on these pages right on our own doorstep. The Galway based European HQ of B&B Electronics provided us with an opportunity share with our visitors a momentous occasion in this part of the world.

The excitement of two years ago has returned to Galway, City of the Tribes, capital of the western capital of Connaught with the opening of “The Volvo!” or the Volvo Ocean Race. Last night thousand gathered to welcome the surviving heros as they completed their epic journey, passing the location of the Read-out offices, on the north shore of Galway Bay, at around midnight.

There were 10 Host Ports the locations of which give an idea just how gruelling a competition it is. It set off from Alicante (ES) last October and then travelled to Cape Town (ZA), Abu Dhabi (UAE), Sanya (PRC),  Auckland (NZ), Itajaí (BZ), Miami (USA), Lisbon (P), Lorient (F) before finishing up in Galway (Ireland).

The Route of the 2012 Volvo Ocean Race!

And boy was there a party in Galway last night when the intrepid yachts finally made port? The winners in the most tightly fought race were the French Groupama team.

B&B Electronics Europe has provided an extensive fibre, cellular and wireless communications network for the Volvo Ocean Race Galway Grand Finale, the nine-day festival built around the final leg and finish line of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 in Galway, Ireland, June 30 – July 8.

Based in Galway, tey previously provided network expertise for the Galway leg of the Volvo Ocean Race in 2009.  According to the Grand Finale website, the skippers who raced in 2009 chose Galway as the 2012 end port because they “had never experienced such a spectacular stopover as they had in Galway.” The 2009 event drew large crowds (some 600,000 visitors to the Race Village and 120,000 spectators along the shores of Galway bay), and the 2012 event is expected to attract more than 800,000 visitors to Galway. The six boat fleet racing the final 550 miles from Lorient was due into Galway sometime between midnight on Monday and 3am on Tuesday, July 3rd.

They are again providing and monitoring the physical communications infrastructure including internet access and a ruggedized network used by the race teams, media and Galway event management team. Fergal Concannon, the B&B Electronics engineer responsible for the network both in 2009 and for the current event, said, “It’s the most difficult network project I’ve ever managed in my life.”

The network, deployed across 10 event locations including the docks area, event headquarters, media centre, Race Village, Global Village and seaside resort of Salthill, supports security, crowd management, web feeds, live TV and radio broadcasts, video streaming, credit card and point-of-sale facilities, commentator feeds, big screen displays and interfaces to Volvo’s own IT Group. B&B worked with the Galway event organizer, Let’s Do It Global, in providing the network.

Fibre, cellular and other wireless communications technologies were used to make difficult remote connections and to ensure network redundancy. The 20km of fibre in the docks area includes sections micro-trenched into the ground as well as marine fibre installed by divers.  The company used its GhostBridge Wireless Ethernet Bridges to create point-to-point equipment links across the harbor and to establish internet connectivity at remote locations where wired infrastructure was not feasible.  Other network equipment included B&B Electronics’ ELinx Ethernet Extenders, ELinx ESW Series Ethernet Switches, Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) Switches, and Cellular Wireless Routers used for failover connectivity.

It has drawn from its recently-expanded portfolio of industrial networking products including long-range, last-mile fibre acquired from IMC, and cellular technology for M2M device connectivity acquired from Conel.

“This installation really pushes the edge,” explained Jerry O’Gorman, managing director of B&B Electronics Europe.  “Our engineers are increasingly asked to help connect M2M devices being deployed in increasingly challenging locations, and where network boundaries are being relentlessly stretched to reach them, but this project takes the cake.”

And Galway still has another week to party! And boy can we party!


#prod11 38.5 thousand from 80 countries saw 1234 exhibits in Munich

19/11/2011

productronica, (international trade fair for innovative electronics production 15-18 November Munich D), closed its doors after four days having posted a substantial rise in the number of visitors. 38,500 visitors from more than 80 countries represent an increase of around 34% compared with the previous show. This indicates that the industry has greatly recovered in the last two years and is back to the level in 2007. The proportion of international visitors rose from 39 to 48 per cent.

Norbert Bargmann, Deputy CEO of the Board of Management of Messe München said that productronica had “once again confirmed its leading position as the world’s leading trade fair for the global electronics production industry. Following the weak event in 2009 caused by the economic crisis, we held intensive discussions with the industry. The cooperation with our commercial and industrial partners and representatives is now bearing fruit: the highlight themes, the special show, Battery manufacturing and power electronics, and the PCB Community Area were magnets for both new visitor groups and exhibitor target groups.”

Rainer Kurtz, Managing Director of ERSA, Chairman of the Technical Advisory Board for productronica and Chairman of the Productronic Association in the German Engineering Federation (VDMA): “In 2011 productronica also again proved to be the main platform in providing a further boost to the current economic climate. The trade fair is regarded as the marketplace for the electronics production industry: anyone who regards this as important must be present here. The expertise of visitors is outstanding – a large number of specific inquiries are discussed during productronica.“

38000 visitors from 80 countries!

In addition to Germany, the countries with the highest number of visitors included Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic and Switzerland. Compared with previous events, there was a pronounced increase in the number of visitors from Israel, Poland, Hungary and the Russian Federation. The representative visitor survey conducted by TNS Infratest revealed an overall satisfaction level of 96 per cent on the scale ranging from “excellent” to “good”. 75 % of respondents said they would be attending productronica 2013.

Peter Haan, of Siemens AG, said “The “Automation Systems” business area of the Siemens Industry sector took part in the ‘battery production’ special exhibition. We see the automation of battery or battery cell production as an important topic for the future. The special exhibition gave visitors the opportunity to be able to observe production and the automation it requires as almost all the important process steps were demonstrated by representatives of the appropriate engineering companies. It was possible to conduct numerous technical discussions and establish or build on relationships. All in all our assessment of the special exhibition is positive.” While Ulrich Eckenberger, General Manager Test&Measurement Europe, Rohde & Schwarz said “productronica offers Rohde & Schwarz a good opportunity to cultivate international contacts and generate new leads. We are therefore seizing this opportunity to showcase our latest product highlights at this leading trade fair and doing so – as a Munich company – virtually on our doorstep. After the first two days of the trade fair this year we had already posted approximately a 30 per cent increase in visitor numbers compared with the last productronica.”

Kristi Schilloff, Universal Instruments Corporation added “The productronica show was an excellent venue for Universal to showcase our newest product line introductions. The show was also an ideal forum for us to share our knowledge on both the traditional and emerging electronics industry markets.”

The Innovation Forum and the productronica Forum were very well-attended throughout the duration of the trade fair. Together with the VDMA, Munich International Trade Fairs repositioned trend themes such as “Organic and printed electronics“ or “Energy storage manufacturing” at productronica. One of the Forum highlights was the CEO Round Table. Johann Weber, CEO of Zollner Elektronik AG said, “A large proportion of the audience rated the Round Table as, outstanding‟ since it also focused on the German electronics industry and looked into the future. These forums are decisive and important. The people attending them obtain an enormous amount of information.”

A representative survey conducted by TNS Infratest among exhibitors primarily revealed a significant increase in their level of satisfaction. Over 90 per cent of exhibitors rated the internationality and expertise of visitors, in particular, as “excellent” to “good”. This was also clearly reflected in the overall level of satisfaction among exhibitors: 89%t assessed the outcome of productronica as “excellent” to “good”.

A separate communication platform for the printed circuit board segment – the PCB Community Area – was initiated in close cooperation with the Central Association of the German Electrical and Electronics Industry (ZVEI). Christoph Stoppok, Managing Director of the PCB and Electronic Systems Association in the ZVEI remarked, “We were especially impressed by the Speakers Corner in the new PCB & EMS Marketplace. We would like to congratulate Munich International Trade Fairs on this attractive innovation. With its first-class speakers, the CEO Round Table on the topic „The future of industrial production in Germany and Europe‟ during the productronica Forum provided visitors with an interesting look at future developments, opportunities and risks.“

1,234 exhibitors from 39 countries presented their innovative products and solutions on a net exhibition area of 41,016 square metres (gross exhibition area: 77,000 square metres). This represents an increase of just under 15% in the number of exhibitors compared with productronica 2009 (1,106 exhibitors from 36 countries).

The increase in the amount of net exhibition space was also around 15%, of which approximately 32% of the total area was occupied by international companies. In addition to large numbers of exhibitors from abroad, there were joint stands again this year at productronica, for example from Austria, France, Hungary, Japan and Romania.

We leave the last word to Dr. Eric Maiser, Managing Director, VDMA Productronic who said “Full halls, an excellent mood among exhibitors and visitors – productronica 2011 is really fun. Our highlight themes in the innovation Forum enjoyed a very strong response and the battery production special exhibition in particular was a big hit! We are very satisfied.”

The next productronica will be held in Munich from 12 to 15 November 2013.

"productronica 2011 is really fun!"


Playing football will never be the same! Armac plays the field!

02/08/2011
Measuring precisely leads to knowing exactly

In the Netherlands, we are told, people live by the thought that measuring is the key to knowing. This grew from the wish to keep everything under control. Numbers don’t lie, so they measure everything. Even in the most popular sport in the Netherlands (and the world): soccer (sorry America!), voices are rising to take all variables in hand and rule out the factor of luck as far as possible.

Thus standardisation of circumstances is the solution! One of these standards is being achieved by making the field with artificial grass instead of the unreliable natural grass. When this grass then is measured in quality and other parameters, a “standard” field is on it’s way. This now is made possible by Deltec, in close corporation with Armac!

The number of football fields with artificial grass is steadily growing, but it is still an expensive commodity for most clubs as well as community or public sport providers. Natural grass needs a lot of attention but artificial grass is only optimised when it is installed correctly and adequately maintained. This is important in creating a perfect artificial field, that increases the pleasure of playing, lowers the chances of injuries and prolongs lifespan considerably.

But how is the quality of an artificial field determined? This light weight, handy, user friendly unit helps out sport clubs, sport sections of city and county councils as well as installation companies, which want to know the quality of the playing field. The Club Set gives values on:

The brain of Deltec’s Club Tester, made by Armac, is capable of registering and processing over 10.000 variables per second!

• ball rolling
• vertical bounce of the ball
• infill level (thickness)
• shock absorption
• vertical deformation
• energy restitution and
• surface evenness.

Armac plays the ball
One of the devices within the Club Set is the Club Tester, which Armac has designed with extreme precision to measure the exact values of a simulated descent of a foot on the field and the particular behaviour of the artificial grass as it happenst. Due to high demands on the precision of measuring, the company used its creativity to its full potential in hardware and software engineering.

As a result, results that are accurately filtered from 10.000 variables in one second, in which the sensitivity of the acceleration sensor on 10 millivolt per G (falling force) must fall within a range between -200 and +200 G. “It took us quite some patience and accurate working to “catch” the highest and lowest values from such enormous range of data”, says software engineer Marcel van de Kamp of Armac all who as about the project.

The close cooperation between Deltec Metaal and Armac in the Netherlands has resulted in a way to compare easily the artificial grass field variables with the official FIFA guide lines, which are the international standard.

With the Club Tester a field is monitored and so injuries are minimized and the club enjoys longer a perfectly kept artificial grass field.

Maybe eventually we can predict exactly how the ball will role … or when a goal is not a goal or when a hand ball really ocurs


Fostering discovery and innovation!

21/07/2011
Releases!
Most of these releases were embargoed and were published during the course of NI Week.

In the meantime their “Field Architects” have launched a blog journal appropriately called The Labview Journal. (25/7/2011)
See also: Unoficial guide to NIWeek fun (29/7/2011)
The Releases:
New Levels of Productivity With LabVIEW 2011 (1/8/2011)
National Instruments extends leading PXI RF test performance to 14 GHz (2/8/2011)
First Multicore CompactRIO with Intel(R) Core™ i7 Processor and smallest NI single-board RIO devices (2/8/2011)
CompactDAQ Platform expanded (3/8/2011)
Marketing guide for engineers (4/8/2011)
Donation of design tools to MIT (4/8/2011)

Your correspondant has had a certain “grá” for National Instruments when, in 1988, at an exhibition in Dublin, he saw a young man from Austin (TX US) give a demonstration of LabView on a Macintosh computer – probably a MAC II – which basically set the mouth watering because of its simplicity. At that time MS Windows was probably hardly a twinkle deep in eye of a not very well known Bill Gates so the concept of virtual instrumentation was really only possible on the MAC.

We were therefore delighted to recieve an invitation to a press event organised by them in London which rather intreguing told that we would “find out, under embargo, about the launch of LabVIEW 2011 and the latest cutting edge NI software and hardware for test, control and design!”  It also invited us to “See how NI UK & Ireland, through Graphical System Design, is committed to the future of engineering and is helping to solve real-world engineering challenges!”
Well! What could we say?  A pre-launch launch is always a tempting offer to a journalist. So we immediatly booked our passage on the relatively new service of Aer Árann from Galway Airport to Southend! Where? Yes we didn’t know there was an airport in Southend either, or indeed where exactly Southend was but now we do and it is in fact an incredibly hand service for getting into London City with a direct rail link into the heart of the city in about 40 minutes. Beats the packed tube from Heathrow or the uncomfortable bus ride from Luton any day of the week.

But this is not a travel article so to the business in hand!

Speakers at NI press events in London 20th July 2011. From Left: Robert Morton, Graham Green, Jeremy Twaits, Tristan Jones and Kyle Voosen.

There was almost a full house with the great and the good of British and Irish technical publications present with one or two notable absences. Things got off to a start more or less on time.

The recently appointed Kyle Voosen, NI’s Marketing Manager in Britain & Ireland, led off with an introduction and a graphical representation of the elements of systems that need measurement and control, a sort of thought process leading to the final solving a problem as practised in National Instruments. He said that “Tools should not limit discovery and innovation,” was to be the theme of the conference. Tools are their to help rather than hinder invention.

Presentations first described the technology and them proceeded to give actual application examples. Since there is an embargo on the new products, which will be released at NI Week (early August 2011) we basically give a brief run down here of applications more than actual product specifications and upgrades. These will be release over a few days starting on the first of August and we will advise each release on twitter , our Facebook Pageand on LinkedIN.

First off the blocks was Graham Green, Technical Marketing Engineer who spoke on meeting the needs of mission-critical applications. (We had actually met him earlier in the year at a symposium in Dublin in February.) He stressed the essential investment in testing both man hours and with their beta testers. These largely independent users lead to useable and therefore successful products. He quoted some comments from these trials which indeed looked very promising for the new LabView 2011. He then did a quick demo of the product which seemed to be having problems but he quickly realised that it is a good idea to have your PC hooked up to the equipment for a good demonstration! And it was a good smooth demonstration. He gave as practical and contrasting examples of applications. One was the measurement of tornadoes – from the inside where the opportunity for taking measurements is in an unrepeatable time frame. The other application was in the operating theatre where critical pressure pressure measurements are used in reducing the risk of lung deterioration after surgery.

Tristin Jones, who is Technical marketing Leader with NI, opined that tools should not limit embedded design. He mantained that they are one of the few companies that supplies “the complete solution with unrivalled hardware integration, complete, low-cost data acquisition, embedded control and monitoring, PXI and modular Instrumentation.” He quoted company founder Dr James Truchard, their aim was “To do for embedded what the PC did for the desktop!” He then described what happened historically defining the PC and how it now provides the basic platform for everything. He defined the embedded system: “An embedded systemis a computer system designed to do one or a few dedicated and/or specific functions. It is embedded as part of a complete device often including hardware and mechanical parts.” The diversity of applications is impressive and is growing as the architecture becomes more and more versitile. Again he gave applications using deployed systems in the measurement of wind for powering remote villages and in innovative devices in medical imaging.

The new era of Aautomated test was enthusiaistically greeted by Jeremy Twaits, Technical Marketing Engineer. Increasing test complexity paradoxically requires testing which has lower cost and faster. In the old order a single test instrument was sufficient for testing.  Since then test engineers are faced with a plethera of test instruments. National Instruments are in the forefront of developments here.  He quoted Mohammad Ahmad of Thales Communications “NI PXI hardware and LabVIEW software are essential technologies for test automation productivity and reuse.” and from Analog Devices makes another point on this change, “The shipping container for the previous ATE system alone would cost as much as our entire new PXI test system.” He pointed to the difference in cost, footprint, weight and facility where substantial reductions are achieved – more than a factor of ten in the cost and one of up to sixty six in weight. As they say in America, “Do the math!” National Instruments is not unique in this assessment of the market. Agilent Technologies states “PXI is currently the dominant standard for modular instrumentation. It’s a mature technology and is widely used.”

The final segment was a study of tools for students. Tools should not limit students from becoming the innovators of the future. “Tools should not limit experimentation” said Robert Morton, MD of National Instruments in Britain & Ireland. We must foster innovation and experimentation and he drew example from Thomas Alva Edison, possibly the greatest inventor of the modern era. What are the obstacles nowadays to duplicating his work and his labaratories? They are cost, accessibility and ratio. In the 80s a solution of sorts was found in the emergence of simulation but again it was realised that this had limitations and since the mid-nineties we have witnessed the the resurgence of hands-on, project-based learning. Present day graduates have the opportunity experience of actual physically handling test equipment and conducting experiments at home with NI Elvis and myDAQ, the so-called “Lab in your bag”. He quoted the Director for Teaching and Learning at his alma mater, University of Manchester, Dr Danielle George said “A major contributor to this success has been the adoption of a standard teaching platform from National Instruments…” as well as the somewhat more robust comments from students like: “I love it when ELVIS is in the building :-)” “Why didn’t we get a myDAQ in the first year??” or “ELVIS II has really enhanced my learning!”

Kyle Voosen concluded the event again stressing their message that National Instruments is about “Equipping engineers and scientists with tools that accelerate innovation and discovery.”

There was ample opportunity to discuss particular aspects with the presenters and other National Instrument people. Also present were Ian Bell, their Business Development Manager and Mark Gradwell (@mjg73 on twitter) their Marketing Communications Manager.


Final control elements and other stories

12/05/2010


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Douglas Control  & Automation

Loose Insert: Metrology Systems & Services

The April/May 2010 issue of Read-out, Ireland’s journal of instrumentation, control and automation, highlights final control elements.

Steriflo’s Mark 96 pressure regulator, marketed by Manotherm, is used in sanitary applications. Emersons Fieldvue digital valve controllers are used in an Australian chemical plant “saving us thousands of pounds,” according to the instrument technician on the site. Also featured is Festo’s range of ultra-fast jet valves and Tyco’s EBCO valves to provide full flow replenishment to storage tanks in, for example high-rise buildings.

The front page article gave details of the new marketing strategy of Irish company Biotector Analytical, who have appointed Hach as exclusive distributor in the US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Europe for their range of on-line liquid analysers. Another company with a presence on the North American continent, Qumas, has won the Deloite Best Managed Company Award. This company is a provider of compliance solutions.

There is a report on the Ireland Section of the International Society of Automation visit to the Blanchardstown Institute of Technology where a large assembly of first and second year students participated in a talk on combined heat and power. These students are hoping to qualify with a BSc in Sustainable Electrical and Control Technology. The purpose of this course is “to equip students with the skills and knowledge to embark upon a rewarding career in sustainable engineering within the construction and manufacturing sectors.”

The National Instruments scheme to support micro and SMEs in embedded development is discussed. This is in the form of training and grants of up to nearly €30,000 in software, support and training. “National Instruments…is committed to supporting innovation!”

John McAuliffe, in the InSide Front article, “Cracking the Safety Code“, discusses the poractical applications of the new European Machinery Directive (SI 407/08). that came into force in January. John is Managing Director of Pilz Ireland.

Among the new products highlightes in this issue is Yokogawa’s DXAdvanced DAQSTATION range, Phoenix Contact’s PSI-Bluetooth ProfiBus set, E+H’s Liquiphant M density meter and Blue-White’s new junction box and connector arrangement on their Flex-Pro A3 peri-pump.

Read-out is published every two months and distributed throughout Ireland. Advertising rates, which have maintained their 2004 levels are on the website in Euro, Pounds Sterling and US Dollars.

The next issue for June/July will concentrate on Flow measurement & Control.

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