NIWeek kicked off its 30th birthday celebration with a more mature attitude than past gatherings of its zealous user community, focusing on new technologies and their benefits to users. Leading the advance is the latest version LabVIEW, which is celebrating 20 years in the market with the unveiling of LabVIEW 8.20.
Unlike prior NIWeek openings with motorcycles on stage and stop action photos of water balloons being pierced by darts, demos this year were a bit less visceral, but not less impressive.
A real time demo of LabVIEW 8.20’s Web services got a thumbs up from a design team in Brazil, with shots from Google Earth that showed the Rio de Janeiro neighborhood that was communicating with the crowd in the Austin Convention Center. Another demo showed the music handling capabilities of LabVIEW and FPGA processors, as well as the deft spinning moves of an audience participant who tracked dance footsteps on a screen, stepping on squares on a sensor-laden mat in time to the music.
LabVIEW CEO James Truchard and other speakers covered the history of LabVIEW, with a demo of LabVIEW 1.2 running on a decades-old Macintosh that had “a full Mbyte of memory.
But it is the new 8.20 that got the bulk of attention. The new release pushes the software further into the design side, adding MathScripts and object oriented programming. The mathematical capabilities let engineers bring mathematical models and algorithms into LabVIEW, either writing them in the NI language or importing them from other design tools such as MatLabs.
An FPGA wizard will make it simpler for engineers to program devices for different tasks. Also included is a Modulation Toolkit that gives engineers the ability to develop models to simulate communications systems and evaluate parameter and design decisions. The company also continues to upgrade its Graphical System Design capabilities, which have grown significantly since a light switch described binary changes in version 1.
A new service lets engineers and orthopedic surgeons design and 3D print highly accurate, patient-specific, orthopedic medical implants made of metal -- without owning a 3D printer. Using free, downloadable software, users can import ASCII and binary .STL files, design the implant, and send an encrypted design file to a third-party manufacturer.
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.