NIWeek 2004: R&D, new products, engineering education

Austin, TX—With new product introductions, including controllers, software, and high-speed data acquisition suitable for motion and vision applications, National Instruments (NI) continued its push to serve automation users at its recent 10th annual NIWeek event.


Austin, TX— With new product introductions, including controllers, software, and high-speed data acquisition suitable for motion and vision applications, National Instruments (NI) continues its push to serve automation users. It’s part of the company’s three-pronged focus on unifying software across design, test, and control areas.

At the company’s recent 10th annual NIWeek, Tim Dehne, NI’s senior VP of R&D, helped introduce a flurry of new products, in part resulting from the firm’s spending an average 16% of it annual revenue on R&D, for the past four years. The company also doubled its R&D staff in the same period. “The company’s has had faith in us, and now we’re delivering,” says Dehne. He led the first day’s keynote presentation.

In the second day’s keynote, Dr. James Truchard, NI’s CEO, president, and co-founder, discussed how the dataflow construction of NI’s LabView fits design, test and measurement, and embedded and industrial control. Virtual instrumentation, he says, saves resources by serving all three areas with the same software and hardware.

Mike Santori, NI’s business and technology fellow, previewed some future LabView features including how LabView’s code will write to any target, such as custom and other non-NI platforms. Jeff Kodosky, NI co-founder and “father of LabView,” noted that, “NI’s on right track for combining timing and functional processing…That’s the holy grail for programming languages. We have best chance at making that happen, as seen by LabView FPGA.”

Meanwhile, U.S. engineers need to get students excited and involved in engineering, added Geoffrey Orsak, dean of engineering at Southern Methodist University. He presented the third day’s keynote, “Today’s Engineer, Tomorrow’s Rock Star.” Orsak asked engineers to work proactively to excite local students about the societal benefits of engineering at an early age. Orsak reported that:

  • Aristotle said 2,400 years ago that engineering is the art of directing the great sources of power in nature for the convenience of humankind.

  • The future will be stronger because of engineering tools we have available today; the 21st century will be know as era of the engineer. “We will double number innovations in the next decade.”

  • One 4 oz. USB memory stick can hold 2/3 of a ton of books (about 850 total). That engineering is magic to the average person. “We’re the magicians of society. We make the impossible happen.”

  • Famous people with engineering degrees include Neil Armstrong, Alfred Hitchcock, Jimmy Carter, Tom Landry, Hedy Lamarr, Tom Scholtz (leader of the rock band, Boston), and Boris Yeltsin.

  • Engineers used to be celebrities, but are now unknown to popular culture, he adds, citing Philo Taylor Farnsworth, 1906-1971, who invented television; and Chester F. Carlson, 1906-1968, who invented photocopying.

  • The Infinity Project helps excite youth about engineering. It’s described as a U.S. “award-winning, K-12, and early college math- and science-based engineering and technology education initiative that helps educators deliver a maximum of engineering exposure with a minimum of training, expense and time.” To learn how to help, visit .

NI also continued its support of education by sponsoring a RoboLab conference and competition. The competition gave 16 teams of students, teachers, and others five hours to assemble sensors, software, motors, and Lego Mindstorms Robotic Invention System. Multiple awards included Lego Mindstorms Team Challenge Kit and RoboLab software (based on LabView); several Austin-area classrooms also will receive free hardware, software, and curriculum. For more information on the educational kits visit: .

More than 140 authors from nine countries submitted 77 papers to the NIWeek 2004 Virtual Instrumentation Paper Contest. For winners, visit .

For show video clips, visit .

NI product introductions already featured on Control Engineering ’s Web site include: NI Week 2004: LabView goes embedded with CompactRIO platform ;
NI Week 2004: Two modules double sample rate, memory depth ;
NI Week 2004: SignalExpress software connects design and test
NI Week 2004: 20 multi-function DAQ devices introduced .

Other companies’ announcements at NIWeek 2004 included:

  • CyboSoft used Model-Free Adaptive software for motion control. CyboSoft MFA controller virtual instruments (VI) and NI SoftMotion Development Module for LabView run in NI reconfigurable I/O (RIO) hardware for “high-speed and high-accuracy adaptive motion control.” Earlier this year, CyboSoft announced the MFA Control Toolset for NI LabView software;

  • Maplesoft allies with NI to integrate Maplesoft high-end modeling simulation software with NI LabView, to build on LabView’s analytical tools; and

  • MTS and NI agreed to “deliver a low-cost framework for standardized noise and vibration testing;” MTS says it will use NI LabView software for the testing platform.

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Mark T. Hoske, editor-in-chief

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