Measurement and automation technology is experiencing a phase of radical change. After a brief Windows 95 euphoria, the trend is clearly pointing toward Windows NT, as far as operating systems are concerned. With regard to hardware, ISA/EISA bus systems are increasingly replaced by the superior PCI bus. Formerly stiff boundaries between measurement and automation technologies blur, clearly because the flexible possibilities of data acquisition, analysis, control, and visualization merge more and more to form a software environment entirely in the sense of a holistic approach. We no longer distinguish between classical measurement technology software and process visualization tools. As a global player in the area of measurement and automation technology, National Instruments drives this trend to "unification" under the slogan "the software is the instrument." The company introduced the concept of virtual instruments with its
graphical LabVIEW (Laboratory Virtual Instrument Engineering Workbench) programming
system in the eighties. This concept represented the first leap from conventional measuring devices to adaptable virtual measurement and automation systems.
LabVIEW, originally developed for the measurement and automation technology, has been
advancing more and more as an alternative to conventional programming languages.
Along with the C/C++ programming languages, LabVIEW is among the most frequently used
programming languages for technical and scientific applications today.
LabVIEW is a revolutionary paradigm that can be used to solve technical and commercial
problems. The implicitly parallel and modular development system with its graphical G compiler is impressive in its offering of high runtime speeds and very short program development cycles. A number of extensive libraries built in LabVIEW allow rapid prototyping as well as elegant and powerful application development. In addition to measurement and control engineering, process visualization, laboratory automation, and image processing, the fields of application of this platform-independent development software extend to communications technology, statistics, mathematics, simulation, and commercial data processing.
This holistic approach has been widely adopted by users and manufacturers alike to build
applications based on industry standards, standard computers, and standard operating systems. The number of organizations that discover and use the efficiency of scalable applications based on virtual instruments increases continually. Annual user symposia are organized worldwide under the motto "virtual instruments in practice," where users exchange hands-on experience, concepts, and results in applying virtual instruments. Today, many consider this approach to be the only way to achieve cost and time savings and, consequently, a short time to market. Particularly in the age of the global Internet, this new system generation also gains increasing importance with regard to
distributed, modular applications. It opens new horizons in the sense of an open and
communicative measurement and automation technology.
Objectives of This Book
This book provides an insight into the capabilities of LabVIEW, describing graphical flow programming with LabVIEW, illustrated by many examples and practical applications. It lets you dive into a totally new programming world using "virtual instruments." Information technology problems are reduced to a graphical formulation of solutions. Coding and documenting happen in the background. Applications from almost all areas of graphical flow programming and relevant background information impressively demonstrate the range of potential applications and the power, quality, and reliability of LabVIEW applications.
This book represents crucial reading for instructors, scientists, students, hardware and software developers, and decision-makers in research, academia, and industry. Professional LabVIEW developers, novices to the field, and those curious look beyond conventional paradigms are provided with an extensive overview on supported hardware, fields of applications, and interfaces to other hardware and software systems. In addition to documenting the current state of the art in virtual instrumentation, this book suggests potential future LabVIEW uses.
Organization of This Book
This book is divided into three main parts: introduction; communication technologies and
mechanisms; and analysis and evaluation methods and application examples. Each part is divided into chapters, and the overall structure reflects the following sequence of basic questions:
The structure of the book follows a top-down approach. However, the text enters, at each step, into rather more detail than a strictly logical organization would require. We hope that the resulting redundancies are in practice beneficial to the overall understanding, providing explanations given in different contexts and from different perspectives.
- What are virtual instruments?
- What is LabVIEW?
- What requirements does LabVIEW place on the underlying hardware?
- What can we do with LabVIEW today?
- What are the benefits of using LabVIEW?
- What is the outlook of LabVIEW?