Using props like Mr. Potato Head,
a blade-wielding, pick-and-place robot and a studded bat used by Samurai
warriors, the keynote address kicking off NIWeek
2009 today lived up to its expectations by featuring a lineup of
completely out-of-the-ordinary product demonstrations. The goal was to show
engineers at this major user conference not just some of the new products and
features that NI is rolling out, but also to expose them to different ways of
thinking about how they use NI products in the design and development process.
Judging from the audience
reaction, NI met that goal.
Keynote host John Graff, vice president of marketing and customer operations, kicked things off
by referencing the recent mortgage, banking and the economic crisis. "The
financial engineers have screwed things up, and now it's time for the real
engineers and scientists – the drivers of innovation – to step up and fix
things." The audience roared with approval at his remarks.
NI engineers and product
managers then proceeded to show how design engineers can save time, money and
complexity in the design process.
Mr. Potato Head played the
leading role in a demo of NI's new X
Series Multifunction DAQ, a family of 16 new devices for PCI Express and
PXI Express, which should be of interest to engineers incorporating motor
control into their applications.
By providing improvements in
onboard timing, data streaming and triggering, one powerful capability of the
new devices is the ability to perform measurement tasks in parallel. The new
ASIC technology provides four 100-MHz counters per device. With each counter
now able to generate a finite pulse train, it eliminates the need for two
counters per measurement – one to continuously generate pulses and a second to
gate the pulses for applications such as stepper motors.
To showcase the tool's
multifunction capabilities, Software Group Manager Daniel Domene dreamed up a
3-D scanning application that "goes way beyond basic analog input." With Mr.
Potato Head mounted on a rotating platform, the output from a laser distance
sensor and motor encoder are used to measure the rotation at an actual angle. A
counter is used to move the laser up to scan Mr. Potato Head, layer by layer.
"This would have taken three X Series devices to accomplish in the past," says
Given the tool's multifunction capabilities, Domene says the demo was
ridiculously easy to set up. "Every time I had a roadblock, I could simply
re-engineer the system in about 25 clicks. That's a big benefit of
hardware-in-the-loop. To do it in software would have required a big, crazy
mass of code."
In another demo, dubbed "The
Flying Plate of Amputation," Systems Engineer Mac Christenson and Product
Manager Christian Fritz showcased the
new NI CompactRIO controller and backplane. "Multi-axis motion can be
intensive," says Christenson. "The loops must be tightly synchronized to
provide smooth motion."
For the demo, which
consisted of a blade-wielding, five-axis pick-and-place robot, engineers
interfaced NI's C Series drive interface module for servo and stepper drives
directly to the CompactRIO. The benefit, they say, is it "allows
engineers to use the same VI for motion functions to develop a prototype. It
allows them to develop, visualize and deploy motion applications."
VP John Graff declined to
use his hand to demo the robot's precise positioning capabilities (a glove was
substituted instead), but he happily cranked up the speed to make the point.
And as for the Japanese
Kanobo – a bat-like weapon of solid oak clad with iron studs? In a demonstration
of NI's CompactDAQ,
a USB data acquisition tool and LabVIEW Datafinder
Toolkit, Graff's strike force (3,000 Newtons)
was recorded and compared on-the-fly to thousands of files of data for other
top warriors. John was advised not to get into any bar fights.
NIWeek 2009 continues
through Thursday, August 6 with interactive technical sessions, hands-on
workshops and an expo.