What is LabVIEW?
LabVIEW is a graphical development environment. It is particularly well suited to test, measurement and control applications in scientific, engineering and manufacturing industry.
As an example, the latest project that I have worked on is used to monitor furnace settings and temperatures during heat treat of aluminum (and other metal) parts as well as automating the process of surveying the furnaces. It interacts with the customer's business system software through XML files.
To find more information about LabVIEW and the certification program, visit the National Instruments web site.
National Instruments is a company that produces software and modular hardware that is focused on the tasks of measurement, testing and automation in the scientific, engineering and manufacturing fields. To learn more about the company, visit their web site.
Heat Treat Furnace System
I have worked on an application which is used with furnaces used in the heat treatment of cast aluminum parts. The system has components which are used to periodically test the furnaces (surveys) as well as monitoring of loads of parts being run through the furnace.
The system is designed to collect data from a furnace via multiple sources. These include the furnace controllers (via RS-485), thermocouples and proximity sensors through FieldPoint modules and DataSocket connections. A single PC is responsible to collect data for a group of furnaces. There is also a second PC which logs data from the main data channels that are available through the ethernet connection as a redundancy. Load data that is lost due to a PC failure can be regenerated from the logs. The setup is configured using XML configuration files.
Before a furnace is used, regular tests called surveys must be performed to ensure that the furnace is operating within the specifications. This application has 3. The required frequency of each survey is determined by the business system. The results of the survey are transferred to the server where they need to be signed off before loads can be run in the furnace.
- Conformity Check -- ensures controller and monitor thermocouple within tolerance
- System Accuracy Survey -- ensures controller is within operating tolerance
- Temperature Uniformity Survey -- ensures entire furnace is within range of the setpoint (i.e. no hot or cold spots)
The system integrates with the current business system which is used to create a load file describing the parts that are in the furnace and the parameters that the furnace needs to run at. When the user starts the load the application monitors the temperatures and other sensors and records the data. The data is recorded and transferred to the server to reduce the opportunities for tampering with the data. It also uses checksums to detect tampering.
Redundancy is provided by 2 modules. The first is a stand-alone LabVIEW application that logs the data from the FieldPoint channels for the furnaces every second or so. This data is collected and transferred to the server every hour. The second component is a module that can use the data logs to regenerate the load data. This regenerated data can then be used to fill gaps in the original or, in extreme cases, replace the original.
The application includes several components developed in C++, perl, shell scripts and VBA.
©William Charles Nickerson (2004 - 2006)