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Graphical suite extends into distributed intelligence

01 October, 2005

Graphical suite extends into distributed intelligence

After four years of work involving 100 developers and 300 beta-testing customers, National Instruments has unveiled the latest version of its LabView graphical development platform. Key enhancements in version 8 of the software include the introduction of distributed intelligence - allowing engineers to design, distribute and synchronise intelligent devices and systems - and a project-based environment for developing and managing large projects.

LabView, which began life in 1986 as a laboratory instrumentation package for Mac computers, has evolved into a full control and monitoring system which challenges traditional control systems. It is now used by more than 25,000 companies around the world.

LabView 8 extends its reach further into the control arena with easy-to-use distributed communication and control tools. Control system engineers can now use the same graphical platform as embedded designers and test engineers for data transfer, deterministic real-time communications, motion control and network synchronisation.

Ian Bell, NI`s technical marketing manager for the UK, says that LabView 8 differs from traditional controls in that it provides a single tool for a complete system. "You don`t have to learn different tools and make them talk to each other," he says. "You can program all parts of a system, as well as performing the monitoring, alarming and datalogging functions traditionally done by SCADA."

Although Bell is not suggesting that users rip out their existing control systems and replace them with LabView, he contends that "if you have a problem that traditional systems won`t address, LabView can probably handle it".

One of the enhancements in the new version is a tool which recognises connected devices and finds and downloads the correct drivers from an Internet database of more than 4,000. This automated process eliminates tedious manual configurations.

New add-on modules include: a real-time module for developing deterministic and embedded control applications; a datalogging and supervisory control module, for developing distributed monitoring and control applications; and a PDA module for creating measurement and control applications that will run on PocketPC and Palm handheld computers (shown above).

European prices for LabView 8 start at €1,195.

NI has formed a strategic alliance with Copley Controls to accelerate the implementation of distributed motion control. It has integrated its new LabView SoftMotion controller with Copley`s CANopoen intelligent drives, to support multi-axis plug-and-play networks of up to 255 daisy-chained drives.

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