NI Compact FieldPoint Takes LabVIEW into Harsh Industrial Environments

11/6/2002 - National Instruments' new Compact FieldPoint product line delivers a small, rugged, intelligent platform that extends the reach of LabVIEW software to harsh industrial environments such as embedded machine control, industrial data acquisition, data logging, and in-vehicle applications.

With the robust design of Compact FieldPoint, engineers and scientists, once challenged by extreme industrial environments, now can perform advanced measurement and control by integrating this intelligent distributed platform on a factory floor, within an industrial machine, or in remote locations. The Compact FieldPoint family consists of 20 I/O modules and three intelligent controllers that perform analog and discrete control, user-defined data logging, and advanced inline math and signal processing. With these processing capabilities, engineers and scientists can perform signal generation, calculus, curve fitting, statistics, and run PID loops, fuzzy logic, and optimal control routines.

"Compact FieldPoint running LabVIEW Real-Time is perfect for our stand-alone control of hybrid power systems in Alaska," said Thomas Johnson, Research Engineer for the Institute of Northern Engineering, University of Alaska. "These systems provide cathodic protection for the trans-Alaskan pipeline and must operate with utmost reliability in extreme and adverse conditions. Only Compact FieldPoint combines the necessary ruggedness and durability necessary to make these systems a reality."

Compact FieldPoint incorporates a solid metal backplane for stand-alone mechanical ruggedness and stability. Users benefit from sturdy four or eight-slot backplanes and steel screw fasteners that enable Compact FieldPoint to endure high vibration applications, even when mounted on heavy machinery or in vehicles. This industrial form factor is the size of a large brick, measuring 5x10x5 in., and withstands 50 g of shock and 5 g of RMS vibration.

"By eliminating the possibility of disconnect failures resulting from intense shock and vibration, Compact FieldPoint provides a cutting-edge solution for the challenges of in-vehicle testing. This small, rugged, and intelligent platform enables us to implement analog measurement, control, and data logging to monitor signals, such as oil pressure and vehicle speed," said Lance Butler, Senior Systems Integrator for B&B Technologies. "This dramatically reduces the time and cost currently associated with in-vehicle applications."

Compact FieldPoint operates in temperatures ranging from -25 C to 60 C, enabling users to run embedded LabVIEW applications in extreme environments that cause many industrial PCs to fail.

With the Ethernet connectivity of Compact FieldPoint, engineers and scientists can create Web-enabled applications, remotely monitor sites to improve processes, reduce costs, and improve data throughput. The built-in Web and file servers featured in Compact FieldPoint provide easy access to the embedded LabVIEW application and stored data. With remote panels, users can access the LabVIEW user interface through any Web browser, enabling them to view or control embedded applications remotely without a separate human machine interface (HMI).

For applications requiring control of external devices, Compact FieldPoint offers one RS-485 and three RS-232 serial ports. Engineers and scientists now can control and communicate with industrial devices, including bar code scanners, radio modems, touch screens, and programmable logic controllers (PLCs), using the four serial ports. The RS-485 serial port provides a low-cost, long-distance (1.2 km), multidrop network for connecting these industrial devices.

Because Compact FieldPoint seamlessly integrates with PLCs, engineers can achieve advanced analog control, measurement, data logging, and communication functionality. For systems incorporating a PC, LabVIEW provides connectivity to more than 100 PLCs from a wide range of manufacturers.

With new flexible mass termination options, engineers and scientists can use industry standard 37-pin DSUB connectors to wire I/O signals to a plug-in screw terminal connector block or create custom cables for machine building, which reduce installation time, eliminate manual labor, increase accuracy, and reduce cost. The platform also offers a removable Compact Flash, which increases memory for extended data logging and allows engineers to easily perform software updates without an Ethernet connection.

Compact FieldPoint also expands upon the capabilities of traditional distributed measurement and control platforms, providing one of the easiest data acquisition systems and a fast time-to-first measurement. With LabVIEW, engineers and scientists benefit from simple hardware configuration and an easy-to-use software programming interface.

About National Instruments
National Instruments leverages commercial technologies, such as industry-standard computers and the Internet, to deliver customer-defined measurement and automation solutions. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, NI has more than 3,000 employees and direct operations in 37 countries. NI increases the productivity of engineers and scientists worldwide by delivering easy-to-integrate software and modular hardware. In 2001, the company sold products to more than 24,000 different companies in more than 60 countries around the world. For the past three consecutive years, FORTUNE magazine has named NI one of the 100 best companies to work for in America.

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