Coordinated valve controls write messages on water wall: Optimation

Integration project: Valves, controller spell out messages in a waterfall.
By Jennifer Palumbo August 31, 2011

Waterfall valve jets in Optimation demo spell out a V. NIWeek photo by Mark T. Hoske, CFE Media.Optimation’s Houston office wanted to make a splash at trade shows and conferences and highlight the abilities of Optimation engineers. After considering a few concepts, they designed, built, and programmed a waterfall able to write in water whatever letters, symbols, phrases, and pictures they had drawn on a computer screen, as shown at NIWeek in August.

Most of the Optimation Houston team specializes in software, controls, and test applications using National Instruments (NI) software and hardware products. They used a cRIO-9073 Programmable Automation Controller and wrote the user interface in LabVIEW. The interface allows the user to change the water patterns by drawing with a cursor. While the waterfall or “water wall” application is a relatively simple use of a cRIO controller, developing the demo has stimulated the team’s creativity, leaving plenty of room for future modifications.

The waterfall structure is 7 ft tall with a 4 ft x 4 ft base. It uses SMC valves to precisely release water to accurately render specified designs. Valve experience derives from design and construction of test systems for the oil and gas industry, with valves to control fluid at 30,000 psi. (The water wall doesn’t use this same level of pressure, of course, which would have created a hazardous water laser demonstration.)

Aaron Kralovetz, Optimation systems developer, led a group of other Optimation engineers, designing and assembling the project in four weeks. The water wall breaks down for transport, and uses a standard tote to catch and recycle the water at the bottom. Videos of the water wall in action can be seen here and here.

– Jennifer Palumbo is marketing communications specialist, Optimation Technology Inc. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, CFE Media, Control  

Other NIWeek 2011 stories include…

Smart Grid controls, instrumentation enable reliability, efficiency

Data acquisition modules support wireless, USB, Ethernet, are backward compatible

Compact multicore controller uses Intel Core i7 processor

System design and programming software helps integrate hardware: 25th anniversary

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