National Instruments has rolled out an interactive software environment that allows product developers to easily generate code for electronic devices employing Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs).
The interactive product, an integral feature of the company's new LabView 8.20 software released in August, could play an important role for designers who want to employ FPGAs, but may not have the programming wherewithal. In particular, National Instruments' engineers foresee its use in data acquisition and machine control systems.
"This allows developers to leverage the power of FPGAs, without having to understand the underlying implementation," notes Kamran Shah, a LabView product manager for National Instruments.
Known as FPGA Wizard, the new interactive environment generates LabView applications that can be compiled to run on FPGAs. It enables designers to develop those applications just as they would on Windows-based machines, using a similar kind of graphical development environment.
"The designer configures an interactive diagram, and the FPGA Wizard generates a LabView application," Shah says. "Then all you have to do is tweak your control logic."
The new software could be the most significant tool yet for designers who want to employ FPGAs in machine control and data acquisition applications. In the past few years, FPGAs have grown in popularity because they can be programmed on-site and, therefore, customized for specific applications, without the need for costly custom chips. The programmable devices have not been adopted into as many applications as they might otherwise be, however, because designers of such systems typically need to know specific hardware modeling languages, such as VHDL (VHSIC hardware description language). National Instruments engineers claim that the FPGA Wizard obviates the need for VHDL knowledge in most machine control applications.
"With this, we've enabled domain experts to become embedded developers, without really being embedded developers," Shah says. "We want to do for the embedded world what the PC did for the desktop."
For more on NI's FPGA Wizard, join our Electronics Forum at http://rbi.ims.ca/4932-538.