LabVIEW is a graphical programming environment used by millions of engineers and scientists to develop sophisticated measurement, test, and control systems using intuitive graphical icons and wires that resemble a flowchart. It offers unrivaled integration with thousands of hardware devices and provides hundreds of built-in libraries for advanced analysis and data visualization – all for creating virtual instrumentation. The LabVIEW platform is scalable across multiple targets and OSs, and, since its introduction in 1986, it has become an industry leader. LabVIEW is different from most other general-purpose programming languages in two major ways. First, G programming is performed by wiring together graphical icons on a diagram, which is then compiled directly to machine code so the computer processors can execute it. While represented graphically instead of with text, G contains the same programming concepts found in most traditional languages. For example, G includes all the standard constructs, such as data types, loops, event handling, variables, recursion, and object-oriented programming. With LabVIEW, you can use all of your hardware with a single development environment. Connectivity is made possible with driver software, which serves as the communication layer between LabVIEW and your hardware. LabVIEW driver software supplies seamless integration across multiple types of instruments, buses, and sensors, including data acquisition devices; boxed instruments; modular instruments; motion controllers and motor drives; machine vision and image processing hardware; wireless sensors; and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). In the rare event that a LabVIEW driver doesn’t already exist, you also can import drivers from other programming languages or use low-level communication to implement your own driver. Make Smarter Decisions Faster with Inline Analysis Inline analysis implies that data is analyzed and acquired in the same application. If your application involves monitoring a signal and changing behavior based on the characteristics of the incoming data, you need to perform analysis as you acquire the data. By measuring and analyzing certain aspects of the signals, you can make the application adapt to certain circumstances and enable the appropriate execution parameters – perhaps saving the data to disk or increasing the sampling rate. Although this is only one example, there are thousands of applications where a certain degree of intelligence – the ability to make decisions based on various conditions – and adaptability are required, which is possible only by adding analysis algorithms to the application.
Typically, the decisions made based on the data are automated. This implies that the logic is built into the application to handle certain behaviors. For example, a plant monitoring system might light an LED to signify when a temperature passes its threshold or a vibration level is getting too high. However, not all decisions based on acquired data are made in an automated manner. To determine whether the system is performing as expected, you often must monitor the execution. Rather than logging data, extracting it from a file or database, and then analyzing it offline only to discover errors in the acquisition, you should identify problems as you acquire data. In these cases, the application must handle the data coming from the process and then manipulate, simplify, format, and present the data in the way that is most useful. With the built-in suite of dialogs in LabVIEW, you can create an application that presents options to the operator or user. For example, if the temperature is too high, the dialog could force the operator to take a specified action and then press the “OK” or “Continue” button to proceed with the application.
Whether your decisions are made by built-in logic or a human user, LabVIEW offers analysis and mathematical routines that natively work together with data acquisition functions and display capabilities. This makes it possible for them to be easily built into any application without your enduring the tedious process of massaging data into the different formats required by separate tools. In addition, LabVIEW provides analysis routines for point-by-point execution; these routines are designed specifically to meet inline analysis needs in real-time applications. LabVIEW can display any acquired or processed data you have on your block diagram, and you do not need to convert anything or write code to create a new indicator. Simply right-click the wire and choose Create»Indicator to add the appropriate display to your front panel. Once you have created it, you can customize colors, units, scale, range, and zoom directly on your front panel.
Unlike most programming languages and environments, LabVIEW is developed with technical use cases in mind, so it offers engineering and scientific displays. You can show temperature using a thermometer, view a digital test vector with a digital waveform graph, and compare time and frequency domain information side by side. If you want to see voltage expressed in engineering units (10 mV rather than .01), you can. If you see something unusual in a waveform and want to take a closer look, you can interactively manipulate the graph by using the zoom tool or clicking the scale and typing new end points.
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