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LabVIEW Real-Time hands-on seminar

Seeing how LabVIEW Real-Time works; impression of the hands-on seminar organized by National Instruments Nederland BV (NI), at a location in Delft, The Netherlands, on February 9th 2005.

Two representatives of NI, Peter Engelbracht and Arnod Busser, presented the principles of real-time data-acquisition and the basics of LabVIEW Real-Time to an audience of 19 university, governmental and industrial employees.

First things first: What is real-time? There is a widely spread misconception that real-time is equivalent to real-fast. Although real-time can be really fast, it's true importance is that it is really timely. So if you want to run a LabVIEW program with known timing, then you'll need LabVIEW Real-Time.

Not only do you need LabVIEW Real-Time, you'll also need hardware with a real-time operating system. Although you can develop a real-time program on a Windows PC, you'll need a real-time operating system to run it. Of course National Instruments can deliver different types of hardware to suit your needs...

The nice thing about LabVIEW Real-Time is that you don't have to obtain new skills to start using it. For simple 'virtual instruments' (or vi's, actually LabVIEW programs) the way you make programs is (almost) the same as for the vi's that you would run on your LabVIEW PC under Windows. The main difference is that you'll have to set the target platform to real-time.

The participants of the seminar could make a basic temperature control program with both a heater (lamp) and a cooler (fan). The only difference with normal vi programming was the selection of the real-time equivalent for the ordinarily used delay node (function block).

In real-time applications the code-part of the vi will be transfered to the real-time hardware whereas the user-interface will remain on the LabVIEW PC. When the program has started running, the PC with the user-interface can be turned off and on again at a later time. The communication between the real-time hardware and the originating PC, or any other PC, can be achieved in several ways. As demonstrated, you could even use a webbrowser (at least Internet Explorer should work) to communicate with a running program.

The three and a half hours of presentations, demonstrations and exercises really were an useful introduction to LabVIEW Real-Time.

Bart Boshuizen, 2005/02/15

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