National Instruments announced LabVIEW Robotics 2009, a new version of its graphical system design software that provides a standard development platform for designing robotic and autonomous control systems. NI LabVIEW Robotics 2009 delivers an extensive robotics library with connectivity to standard robotic sensors and actuators, foundational algorithms for intelligent operations and perception and motion functions for robots and autonomous vehicles. With this new software, engineers and scientists now can implement ideas faster with seamless deployment to real-time embedded and field-programmable gate array (FPGA) hardware, and can maximize the software flexibility through integration with a variety of processing platforms, third-party software tools and prebuilt robot platforms.
"When building a new robot, one must typically start from scratch. With no software standard, there is very little opportunity for code reuse or sharing," said Dr. Dave Barrett, professor at Olin College and former vice president of engineering at iRobot Corporation. "We need an industrial-grade, hardened, richly supported software development system to build autonomous, mobile robots that can sense, think, and act in the world around them. I have spent 15 years trying to come up with the best robotics programming language, and LabVIEW has accomplished that."
Because of its open graphical system design platform, LabVIEW Robotics 2009 can import code from other languages including C/C++, .m files and VHDL, and communicate with a wide variety of sensors using built-in drivers for everything from LIDAR, IR, sonar and GPS devices to dramatically reduce development time allowing engineers and scientists to focus on adding their own algorithms and intelligence. In addition, the software includes new robotics IP capable of easy implementation to real-time and embedded hardware for obstacle avoidance, inverse kinematics and search algorithms to help an autonomous system or robot plan an optimal path.
"The LabVIEW graphical and textual language has evolved dramatically in the past 23 years," said John Pasquarette, vice president of product marketing for software at National Instruments. "Initially developed as a data acquisition and instrument control tool for automated test, LabVIEW has grown into a powerful embedded mechatronics design platform. Engineers and scientists now can design sophisticated control systems and quickly deploy their applications to real-time embedded hardware from a single environment."
LabVIEW Robotics 2009 is ideal for designing and prototyping applications including the following:
- Autonomous and semiautonomous ground vehicles
- Robot rescue platforms
- Personal and service robots
- Medical robotic devices
- Academic and research robots
- Agricultural and mining systems
When combined with
NI CompactRIO or
NI Single-Board RIO devices, LabVIEW Robotics 2009 provides a complete development platform for designing robotic control systems. The reconfigurable I/O (RIO) architecture incorporates a real-time processor, an FPGA and a wide range of I/O, including analog, digital, motion and communication. By combining off-the-shelf sensors with a CompactRIO or NI Single-Board RIO embedded system, engineers and scientists can rapidly design and prototype complex robotic applications.
LabVIEW Robotics 2009 is priced from $1,999 (US).
Explore a collection of robotics tutorials, webcasts, videos and case studies about using NI hardware and software by downloading the " Robotics 101 Resource Kit" at www.ni.com. For additional information on LabVIEW Robotics 2009: www.ni.com/robotics.
Commentary By Jeffrey Rowe, Editor
National Instruments (NI) is an interesting company that develops software such as NI LabVIEW, and is fortunate to sell its products to a diverse customer base of more than 30,000 different companies worldwide, with no one customer representing more than 3 percent of revenue and no one industry representing more than 15 percent of revenue. Diversity is a good thing . . .
I have followed NI for a number of years and really got interested in the company a couple of years ago with LabVIEW 8.5 being used alongside SolidWorks. LabVIEW Robotics is a natural progression in the evolution of the product line for designing and prototyping robotic systems that are becoming increasingly pervasive in the world around us, not just manufacturing environments anymore.
This announcement by National Instruments again reinforces the increasing need for simultaneous simulation of mechanical and electrical systems, universally known as mechatronics. As we have been saying for several years, there was a time when mechanical systems and products were strictly mechanical, however, the majority of today’s products continue to become more capable, and more complex, involving the integration of mechanical and electrical subsystems.
A more comprehensive way to view mechatronics is the systematic integration of mechanical, electrical, electronics, and embedded firmware (software) components. When all of the various components are combined the result is an electromechanical system. Maybe a better term is “ecosystems.” In this context, mechatronics is characterized by software and electronics controlling electromechanical systems. This description is widely seen in automotive engines and other automotive systems, as well as production machinery and medical equipment.
Mechatronics can also be a method used for achieving an optimal design solution for an electromechanical product. Key mechatronics ideas are developed during the interdisciplinary simulation process that provide the conditions for fostering synergy for discovering solutions to complex design problems. The synergy arises from the integration of mechanical, electrical, and computer systems with information systems for the design and manufacture of mechatronics products. In other words, many different distinct subsystems coming together to perform a complex function. Mechatronic products exhibit performance characteristics that were previously difficult or impossible to achieve without a synergistic approach by applying information systems to mechanical, electrical, and computer systems.
A continuing trend is that as mechatronics systems get more complex and as functionality demands increase, in many instances software and firmware are replacing or at least supplementing hardware. A benefit of this transition from hardware to the burgeoning emphasis on software is called “postponement,” that is, the ability to include or change major functionality features during the final stages of production via embedded software.
As mechatronic systems get more complex, the challenges associated with successfully designing and executing them also become more demanding due to the interoperability requirements between electronic CAD (ECAD) and mechanical CAD (MCAD) software.
Mechatronics systems present major design and production challenges because they bring together many different types of physical and digital parts, processes, and personnel to create a successful end product. Designing and producing a mechatronics system requires a well-orchestrated effort by a wide variety of job roles and functions – everything from industrial design to PCB layout to control logic design to production planning.
There are several positive effects of integrating digital simulation and modeling in designing mechatronics, and for good reason – it saves time and money, reduces risk, and results in higher quality, more innovative products. Several of the 3D MCAD packages and the mechatronics synergy is the result of working with companies such as National Instruments. This synergy between the companies has resulted in the greatest value being realized in moving from mechanical to electromechanical machine design. Customers have benefited by integrating simulation and controls with the help of National Instruments (with products such as LabVIEW Robotics) and 3D modeling and mechanical analysis/simulation.
In the past, simulating the performance of a machine containing both mechanical and electrical components was a difficult and time-consuming process that required skilled specialists. Today, mechatronics design tools from National Instruments and several of the MCAD vendors are bringing the electrical and mechanical worlds together to make simulation and subsequent design easier. With 3D CAD, mechanical engineers can design machine parts and assemblies using a familiar interface with 3D visualization, while also simulating mechanism motion through mechanism dynamics.
While motion analysis packages are well-suited for open-loop motion simulations, a typical electromechanical system involves closed-loop control. For a true closed-loop simulation, engineers need to simulate not only the dynamics of a mechanism but also the controls that act on that mechanism. The LabVIEW interface for mechanical analysis packages provides an interface between the two environments so engineers can simulate closed-loop control for complex electromechanical systems. Closed-loop simulation between mechanical and control development environments can help drive better design decisions for both the mechanical and control aspects of a design.
Closed-loop simulation with a control design environment, such as LabVIEW and LabVIEW Robotics, and a mechanical design environment, can help accelerate the design process for complex mechatronics systems, resulting in superior products in less time.
We hope to see a lot of our readers in Anaheim, California at SolidWorks World 2010. Stop by and say hello at Booth #544 in the Partner Pavillion. Hope to see you there!
The Week’s Top 5
At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.
Terrafugia Uses Dassault Systemes to Create Street-Legal Airplane
Dassault Systèmes (DS) announced that CATIA has been chosen by Terrafugia, creators of the Transition Roadable Aircraft, for 3D composite and finite-element modeling. Terrafugia will use CATIA Analysis and CATIA Composites Design (CPD) solutions to design and develop its beta prototype, with delivery expected in 2011. The company had success with Dassault Systemes’ SolidWorks 3D design suite, which it began using in March 2009, Terrafugia adopted CATIA Analysis and CATIA CPD as composite-focused complements to its existing SolidWorks infrastructure. For the upcoming second prototype, Terrafugia’s design team is using CATIA Analysis to create preliminary design simulations within the CAD environment. The company is using CATIA CPD to build and test reinforcement spars on the prototype’s structural panels. The Transition Roadable Aircraft can cruise up to 450 miles at 115+ mph, take off and land at local airports and drive at highway speeds. The two-seat vehicle has front wheel drive on the road and a propeller for flight, transforming from plane to car in thirty seconds. Both modes are powered by unleaded automobile gasoline. By giving pilots a convenient ground transportation option, the Transition reduces the cost, inconvenience and weather sensitivity of personal aviation.
Editor’s Note: I’ve been following this one for quite some time (since SolidWorks World 200x) and have been impressed with this two-seater with a four-cylinder engine, continuously variable transmission, front wheel drive, standard safety equipment that includes a parachute and airbags, and fits in a standard garage. The company calls the $200,000 a “roadable aircraft” that should hit the market in late 2011. It can fly to any airport that has a runway at least 2,500 long. When it’s on the ground, the pilot/driver presses a button to fold up the wings so it can drive on roads. Totally practical? Maybe not. Cool, innovative concept? Definitely.
ITI TranscenData Joins the Siemens PLM Software JT Open Program
ITI TranscenData announced that it has joined the JT Open Program to offer the JT data format to its CAD data interoperability customers. The JT Open Program is an industry initiative sponsored by Siemens PLM Software. It consists of a community of software users and independent software vendors committed to the widespread adoption of a single, open and preferred 3D visualization platform based on JT technology. JT Open provides a forum where all members have equal access to JT technology, which has proven value in visualization, collaboration and data sharing across today’s most popular PLM solutions. CADfix will be ITI TranscenData’s first application to benefit from the new membership, because it removes barriers that prevent the reuse of solid models by providing an extensive set of geometry manipulation tools for importing CAD/CAM/CAE data, repairing it, and exporting the data in the most suitable form for reuse in the downstream system.
ANSYS Releases HFSS 12.1 with New IE Solver Option
ANSYS Inc. announced the 12.1 release of HFSS software for 3-D full-wave electromagnetic field simulation. The product introduces a new integral equation (IE) electromagnetic solver option, which is based on the 3D full-wave method of moments (MoM), that can be implemented in the HFSS desktop. This technology is used for large-scale radiating and scattering simulation studies. The MoM solution procedure used in the HFSS IE solver is well suited for modeling open or radiating problems. The new solver computes the currents on the surfaces of objects and uses those currents to accurately determine the radiated and/or scattered fields. The IE solver provides an automatically adapted and conformal triangular mesh for accuracy. For the largest models requiring the greatest computational resources, the IE solver automatically applies a matrix-based adaptive cross approximation (ACA) algorithm to achieve solution efficiency. The IE solver can use field results from the HFSS finite element method (FEM) solver as a sourcing excitation. Thus, an antenna designer can simulate a feeding antenna structure using the wide variety of source excitations available in HFSS software and link the fields to the new IE solver.
PTC Windchill Software to Enable Leading Medical Device Manufacturer to Advance Global Product Design Strategies
PTC announced that GE Healthcare has selected Windchill, PTC’s PLM software, and Pro/ENGINEER to replace its legacy data management and MCAD software. GE Healthcare is using Windchill for product lifecycle management, Pro/ENGINEER for mechanical CAD/CAM/CAE, and Arbortext for product information delivery. The company is hoping that the new product development environment will enable better control of critical product information, design reuse, global collaboration, and uniform design processes across different product lines.
Autodesk, Inc. and Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp. Settle Lawsuit
Autodesk, Inc. and Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp. (“SolidWorks”) agreed to settle a lawsuit pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In the lawsuit, Autodesk’s allegations included that SolidWorks inappropriately used Autodesk’s trademarks AutoCAD and DWG. SolidWorks asserted counterclaims against Autodesk. To resolve the matter, Autodesk and SolidWorks have each agreed to dismiss all claims and have entered into a confidential settlement agreement. The lawsuit is Case No. 3:08-cv-04397-WHA, pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Editor’s Note: The short press release coming from this action is the latest example of I what I would consider and classify as a frivolous lawsuit. It largely came down to entities used in branding and marketing – three letters (DWG), geometry (rectangles), and color (orange). Of course, there’s more to the lawsuit than just that, but in my opinion, not much. I’d really be curious as to what the “settlement agreement” entails and includes.
Jeffrey Rowe is the editor of MCADCafé and MCAD Weekly Review. He can be reached at Email Contact or 408.850.9230.
National Instruments Introduces LabVIEW Robotics 2009 for Designing Sophisticated Robotics Control Systems
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ANSYS: HFSS 12.1 released
VISTAGY Partners with NIAR to Enable FAA and Aerospace Firms to Determine the Optimal Role of Composites in Aviation
FANUC Robotics Introduces M-3iA Intelligent, Flexible, and High-Speed Assembly Robot
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IDES Reports Top Plastics of 2009
ModuleWorks Expands Head Office
Arena Signs Sofent Technologies as Exclusive Reseller for India
ecVision Further Extends PLM and Supply Chain Capabilities With Develop Module
Delcam's FeatureCAM Cuts Programming Time
Yacht builder Oceanco implements Organice
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Delcam Newsletter - Issue 45a - January 2010