If you spend any time on National Instruments product pages, you will come across Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) programmed with LabVIEW FPGA. What on earth do these have to do with measurement systems?
FPGA’s are an embedded computing platform which provides some unique capabilities:
All of these allow National Instruments to provide a platform where we can program traditional PCs but also these hardware chips in their measurement hardware. This architecture allows us to change the behaviour of these hardware targets to create some powerful systems.
FPGAs in LabVIEW-based systems are a great asset because they are good at jobs that processor-based system aren’t. In particular, when dealing with dynamic signals there are key applications that they serve:
High rate sensors (e.g. acquisition in the MHz) on embedded systems can frequently pose challenges as the data rates are hard to capture and work with when using a CPU.
FPGAs are great for data reduction. For instance, you may want to capture extremely rapid pulse events. The speed of the pulses demands a high acquisition rate. However, the data can be reduced to a pulse time, shape and duration. The CPU doesn’t then have to deal with the full data rate.
An extension of the above, communication protocols typically need data analysed point by point as it comes in, which is harder for a CPU to perform.
Moreover, it could lead to reducing a 1 MBaud protocol to a few kB/s of useful data.
Decisions may need to be made within micro or even nanoseconds of receiving an input – which is not feasible with a CPU. FPGAs, however, can run loop rates in the MHz allowing very fast stimulus-response loops.
Certain types of processing are very efficient on an FPGA (e.g. a simple filter of data on the way in). By using an FPGA, you can reduce the demand on the process and introduce smaller or less expensive systems.
Yes – If you open a LabVIEW FPGA application it uses the same structures and concepts as LabVIEW for a PC but…
No – The computer translates and executes the code quite differently which means you do need to understand new concepts in how LabVIEW works.
Integrating them into your system can be a little unnerving for many reasons:
We can help you implement National Instruments FPGA systems without you having to invest the time to learn, develop and validate the solution yourself.
We are leading experts in using LabVIEW to program NI’s FPGA-based devices. As one of the first companies to have a Certified LabVIEW Embedded Developer in the UK, we’ve programmed every type of FPGA application available, from simple control systems to GB/s data processing systems.
We can do this in two ways for you: