PC instrument control and automation has been helping scientists' and engineers' productivity for more than 25 years. This industry has already recognized and solved many challenging instrument control issues. However, National Instruments' latest software releases introduced an entirely new concept for productive instrument control and connectivity through Express technology. NI LabVIEW 7 Express, LabWindows/CVI 7.0, and Measurement Studio 7.0 for Microsoft Visual Studio .NET include the Instrument I/O Assistant to help connect to and easily communicate with instrumentation easier. Instrument I/O Assistant consists of an interactive interface for instrument connection, instrumentation queries, reads, and writes. You can use the assistant to communicate with message-based GPIB, USB, serial, and Ethernet interface instruments. Users first select an instrument to communicate with and configure basic instrument properties. They can then begin including query and parse, write, and read and parse steps to send commands to the instrument; read responses; and parse the returned data.
Once users graphically build a sequence of steps, they then execute the sequence to communicate with the instrument. When execution completes, users interactively parse data into tokens and have the ability to view and assign data types to the tokens created. Engineers can interactively parse binary numbers and strings, binary number arrays, ASCII numbers and strings, and ASCII number arrays, or use the built-in Instrument I/O Assistant autoparse capability to automatically parse binary block data or ASCII text from the instrument. The autoparse feature can save up to 80 percent of development time by eliminating the need to manually parse and program string manipulation algorithms. Once the data is parsed, users also have the option to scale data linearly or exponentially. Once the read and write commands have been defined and the results parsed, the assistant then automatically generates 488.2 or VISA source code function calls for LabVIEW, ANSI C, Visual C# .NET, Visual Basic .NET, or Visual C++, depending on the development language.
Whatever the level of instrumentation expertise, the Instrument I/O Assistant is an excellent tool for expert developers to use as a debugging and interactive investigation tool and for novices as a great utility for rapid application development through code generation and for assisting in learning about the intricacies of instrument control syntax.