Measurement and Control Engineers Now Can Program FPGAs with NI LabVIEW

11/20/2002 - National Instruments announced the LabVIEW FPGA Pioneer System, an integrated development system that extends the company's widely used graphical development environment to field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). Measurement and control engineers now can use LabVIEW to create custom applications that run on NI FPGA-based reconfigurable I/O hardware.

"The LabVIEW FPGA Pioneer System brings an unprecedented level of timing, control, and synchronization to measurement and control applications," said Ray Almgren, NI vice president of product strategy. "We have extended LabVIEW capabilities for more demanding embedded, real-time, and distributed applications. With this system, engineers can easily implement systems that are difficult or impossible to create with existing tools."

Until now, the extensive knowledge required to program FPGA chips with VHDL or other complex design tools has inhibited widespread adoption of FPGA technology by measurement and control engineers. These engineers now can use the familiar dataflow model and inherent parallelism of LabVIEW to quickly develop and download custom applications to NI reconfigurable hardware. This dramatically simplifies hardware configuration and reduces overall development time.

The LabVIEW FPGA Pioneer System expands the realm of application challenges that engineers can solve with virtual instrumentation. Just as LabVIEW revolutionized instrumentation with user-defined instruments, this system enables engineers to define their own chip-level hardware for a wide spectrum of measurement and control applications. LabVIEW seamlessly integrates reconfigurable hardware logic with data acquisition and analysis, image acquisition, motion control, and more.

By defining I/O and measurement functionality with LabVIEW and running applications in hardware, engineers can make custom measurements and take advantage of on-board processing. For example, they can easily build custom discrete and analog control applications for manufacturing and scientific research such as dynamometer or motor speed control, simulation applications for development of electronic control units (ECUs) common to vehicles and household appliances, and other sophisticated applications that require tight timing and control.

"Using the LabVIEW FPGA Pioneer System, we built a custom engine simulator to test our new line of engines, which would have been impossible with other off-the-shelf software," said Matthew Viele, senior software engineer at Woodward Governor Company. "This system met or exceeded our specifications and cost 90 percent less than building our own FPGA board."

The LabVIEW FPGA Pioneer System is a complete PXI system that includes the new LabVIEW FPGA Module and the first NI reconfigurable I/O product, PXI-7831R. Engineers use the FPGA software module to configure the functionality of the PXI-7831R board for performing tasks such as the implementation of custom digital protocols and onboard decision making. Engineers can control each board's analog and digital lines independently or synchronize them with other lines. They also can configure the digital I/O lines as custom counter/timers, pulse width modulated (PWM) channels, or flexible encoder inputs.

About National Instruments
For more than 26 years, National Instruments has revolutionized the way engineers and scientists work by delivering virtual instrumentation solutions built on rapidly advancing commercial technologies, including industry-standard computers and the Internet. NI increases productivity for customers worldwide by delivering easy-to-integrate software, such as the NI LabVIEW graphical development environment, and modular hardware, such as PXI modules for data acquisition and instrumentation. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, NI has more than 3,000 employees and direct operations in 37 countries. 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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