Things are still settling after 4 very intense days at National Instruments NI Week Conference. There is always a lot to see and, as always, I didn’t quite get to see everything I wanted to. Nevertheless, NI Week is an outstanding event in the world of engineering.
There are many outstanding achievements to reference and many emerging technologies that the company has engaged with an almost casual brilliance. The instrumentation and control of the largest dynamometer in the world and the 20 megawatt power electronic system that it works with is extraordinary. As with all large projects this is really a confluence of mechanics, hydraulics, electrical systems and measurement systems orchestrated to allow for complete simulation of normal and abnormal operating conditions on large wind turbine generator systems and the grid they are connected to.
The “hardware in the loop” (HIL) testing of Subaru’s new dual drive train hybrid vehicle is an amazing accomplishment. The code complexity of these systems is quite substantial and testing was estimated to require 2300 hours. NI’s advanced HIL testing was able to thoroughly test and measure system performance in 118 hours resulting in a 20 times reduction in testing. Given the importance of the automobile as a major industry and major form of transportation, and especially given the complexity of dual drive train hybrids, this accomplishment is extremely important to the future of all transportation.
The omnipresent cellphone, or hand held supercomputer as it might be more correctly referred to, is putting strain on the communications infrastructure. Leading engineers in that field have identified a path forward called 5G that will provide greater bandwidth and higher reliability than current technology. The teams leading the testing and implementation are doing it with NI hardware.
In a move that is certain to cause ripples in the semiconductor world, NI announced the completion of a high speed Automated Test Equipment system. The system demonstrated at NI week performs full binary testing of complex semiconductors at roughly 1/10th the cost of industry standard hardware.
The most understated of the new products and technologies is the System on Module (SoM). Literally a complete Compact RIO system on a module the size of a business card. The new system is based on Xilinx new Zynq family of System on Chip (SoC) that integrates two ARM9 processors with a large FPGA. This gives the control system designer virtually unlimited flexibility due to the processing power and huge array of high throughput input and output connections available. The really unique feature is that the module is completely customizable using LabView for programming of the FPGA.
Quite an array of accomplishments.