Levee reconstruction in New Orleans, one of the largest construction tasks of the decade, required both brute strength and high precision. Tons of soil was moved, but soil types and amounts had to be monitored constantly. Hayward Baker, a leading geotechnical construction company, developed a new mixing technique to get the right soil qualities for long-term stability. Hollow stem augers and paddles blended materials as they were put in place. Soil characteristics, including moisture levels, were monitored using National Instruments’ Compact Fieldpoint hardware and LabVIEW software. That tool combination also helped Hayward Baker document its activity, an important factor in the government project.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.