NI Outlines Role of Virtual Instrumentation for ATE Systems at Autotestcon

9/23/2004 - Tim Dehne, National Instruments senior vice president of research and development, will serve as a member of the industry expert panel at Autotestcon 2004, the world’s only conference designed for automated test and related technology for military, government and aerospace applications. As part of the keynote, Dehne outlines how virtual instrumentation delivers open, flexible frameworks and reconfigurable I/O to ATE systems, leveraging the rapid evolution of generally available technology with minimal disruption.

“National Instruments recognizes that engineers and scientists in the military, government and aerospace arenas face a unique set of demands, such as the management of maintenance costs over very long project lifecycles,” Dehne said. “We have addressed these needs by engineering open software and hardware frameworks – such as LabVIEW, LabWindows/CVI, NI TestStand and PXI modular instrumentation – that are flexible enough for the test system designer to develop the individual instruments in the system as well as the overall test system with the same set of tools.”

Because their projects can span decades during creation and deployment, engineers developing automated test systems (ATS) require a framework that is broad-based, open, multivendor and can last longer than any single technology element. For software, this means the adoption of consistent application programming interfaces, long-term programming languages and a structure that can evolve independent of operating systems. For example, the LabVIEW, LabWindows/CVI and NI TestStand environments incorporate emerging technologies such as CAM-X and ATML, while simultaneously preserving backwards compatibility.

Similarly, ATS designers need hardware components that provide upgradeability through modularity and reconfigurability, as well as platforms based on open, multivendor standards such as PXI. New technologies for reconfigurable I/O from National Instruments, such as LabVIEW FPGA and the CompactRIO platform, extend hardware reuse by allowing test developers to redefine their measurement hardware through software. The option of reconfiguring existing instruments rather than purchasing and installing new components also saves valuable space within the test system.

“Our goal is to deliver software that provides the easiest integration of new technologies and hardware that offers the widest variety and largest number of measurements possible in a single module. Reconfigurable I/O software and hardware products not only prevent vertical system disruption, but save space and costs in replacing or adding new system components,” Dehne said. “Offering an open framework where users control the personality of the test system has been at the heart of virtual instrumentation for the past two decades.”

Autotestcon, also known as the “Systems Readiness Technology Conference,” is hosted by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, an international nonprofit technical society with more than 350,000 members. The conference addresses commercial areas with a common technical base including aerospace, vehicle and automotive and commercial factory test applications. For more information on Autotestcon, readers may visit

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 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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