NI Refines Scale-Model Testing at Caterpillar with LabVIEW and PXI

10/28/2004 - National Instruments announced that Caterpillar Inc., the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, selected a combination of NI LabVIEW software and real-time PXI hardware to effectively perform scale-model testing of earth-moving machines. By using NI software and hardware, engineers can evaluate and optimize product performance without expensive full-scale prototype evaluation.

The NI PXI real-time platform, LabVIEW Real-Time Module and LabVIEW Simulation Interface Toolkit increase the flexibility, speed and effectiveness of scale-model testing. Using these products, engineers can modify parameters of a MathWorks, Inc. Simulink® model of an earth-moving machine in LabVIEW before testing the design with their specialized robotic earth-moving equipment. By doing this, they can perform an initial evaluation for the functioning of an entire machine design before completing the costly step of full-scale prototyping.

Rob Humfeld, a senior product engineer from NI system integrator Innoventor, Inc., helped build the machine modeling system for Caterpillar. The system consists of two separate computer processors, each running the LabVIEW program. The first, a desktop PC, includes the user interface for the system and collects data with an NI PCI image acquisition board during a test. The second, a real-time PXI controller, controls the test process and collects analog data. A hydraulic robot physically performs the test by controlling a scale model of a machine bucket that digs into a pile of soil. Transducers provide position, load and torque feedbacks to the real-time control system.

“Because of its flexible and modular nature, engineers can adapt the LabVIEW-based system to similar scale-model systems for a variety of machinery, thereby multiplying savings and increasing benefits across other product lines,” Humfeld said.

About National Instruments
National Instruments ( is a technology pioneer and leader in virtual instrumentation – a revolutionary concept that has changed the way engineers and scientists in industry, government and academia approach measurement and automation. Leveraging the PC and its related technologies, virtual instrumentation increases productivity and lowers costs through easy-to-integrate software, such as the NI LabVIEW graphical development environment, and modular hardware, such as PXI modules for data acquisition, instrument control and machine vision. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, NI has more than 3,100 employees and direct operations in 41 countries. In 2003, the company sold products to more than 25,000 companies in 90 countries. For the past five years, FORTUNE magazine named NI one of the 100 best companies to work for in America.

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