Automated measurement systems use data acquisition hardware to capture data from sensors attached to engineering systems.
Why Use Automated Measurement Systems?
Most new product developments come in two ways:
- Take an existing project and improve on it.
- Take some scientific concepts and apply them to a new problem.
In the first case, you need to know that you are improving on what came before. You will also need to convince your customers/managers/peers that this is the case.
In the second case, you need to prove this new concept is an improvement over existing technology for customers to buy in.
In both cases data is king.
In the early days of development, a simulation is a favourite tool for this. You can generate a lot of data, very quickly and iterate on your designs.
At some point though, you must reach the physical world, and you may need to:
- prove that you meet the expectations from the simulations.
- prove performance in contexts that can't be simulated.
- improve simulations by feeding back real-world data.
- measure system performance over time so it can continue to be improved.
Automated measurement systems are used in these cases to give you the measurement data you need to move your product forward. At Wiresmith Technology, we can help you put this in place.
What Does an Automated Measurement System Look Like?
An automated measurement system consists of data acquisition hardware and attached software.
The hardware is attached to sensors to measure physical phenomena such as temperature, pressure or voltage.
The software will be capturing this data with little human intervention and analysing, displaying and storing the information so that it can be used to inform engineers.
Sensors are attached to the system of interest to convert physical phenomenon to eletrical signals
Data Acquisition (DAQ) hardware converts these electrical signals to a digital form using an Analog to Digitial Converter (ADC)
Software running on a PC or embedded target gets data from the DAQ hardware and can analyse, display or store the measurement readings.
Data (or analysed results) is inspected by you to improve your understanding of the system or prove to others how the system performs.
Our specialty is providing you with the software component. We have in house expertise in completing this in LabVIEW.
We are also very knowledgeable about the other elements. Through our partnership with National Instruments we can recommend and provide you with their data acquisition hardware. We can also work with hardware partners on a turn-key solution.
Types of Automated Measurement Systems
Automation is valuable to reducing errors and expanding capabilities of measurements. We think of there being three levels of automated measurement systems (+ 1 with no automation):
Level 0 - No Automation
The sensors may have manual readouts or paper logging systems (such as XY plotters). An operator must read and collate these outputs manually at specific intervals. Often little or no electronic record of the measurement exists.
These are prone to reading errors and are extremely limited in the rate of measurement that can be captured and interpreted.
Level 0 Risks
Level 1 - Data Loggers
A level 1 system means that you connect your sensors to a simple data logger.
At specific intervals, the data logger records measurements to an electronic file which you can collate and analyse manually or automatically after logging has completed.
In these systems, you want to be aware of logging interval, logging duration and system calibration limitations.
Level 1 Benefits
Level 2 - Data Loggers and Online Analysis
These are the most common systems we work on at Wiresmith Technology.
They build on the level 1 data loggers by including some analysis to extract the useful information from the data captured. Examples might be calculating system efficiency or detecting events.
Level 2 Benefits
Level 3 - Measurement and Automation Systems
These systems build on the previous levels to do some useful automation in one of two ways:
- To take additional measurements, e.g. changing the speed of a test rig to measure performance at different setpoints.
- To react to live measurements, e.g. to control the oil temperature of a test part.
Level 3 Benefits
Why Move Up The Levels?
At the higher levels you can achieve:
Why Would I Need Custom Software?
There are many data loggers and data logging software on the market, so why would you pay for a custom solution?
If these aren't of interest to you, then you may not need custom software! Using off-the-shelf software is usually cheaper and faster to get started if it meets your requirements.
If you're not sure, then get in touch, and we will let you know if we think there is a benefit to custom software in your application.
How We Can Help
Our experience with these systems mean there are a number of ways that we can help you to get the data you need:
- Consult on the design of a new system, helping with the hardware selection, or highlight key software requirements to give you an accurate and reliable system.
- Develop custom measurement software to meet your needs.
- Work with hardware partners or internal resources to build a complete, turn-key solution.
The new data logger in place helps in the delivery of projects for students which was almost impossible to do before.
Initially, I wasn't sure if the connection from the software to the actuator would work without interfering with the live data but it worked perfectly. Thanks to its user friendly and self-explanatory interface this complex system enables us to carry out more research.
James was very professional and I really enjoyed working with him.
If there is something you would like achieve, Wiresmith Technology will find technical ways to deliver it.
We deliberately looked for a small but technically very strong company who we knew would be able to work flexibly with us.
The close and personal relationship was important as it allowed us the agility that a larger company would never have been able to match. Also we loved the can-do attitude. Within 30 seconds of the first call, we knew Wiresmith were exactly what we needed
Wiresmith Technology provided an easy working relationship with good feedback on ideas and prompt turnaround times on development. They tracked the work backlog effectively allowing the correct items to be prioritised without losing sight of additional ideas and features.
The complete hardware and software packages offered by NI in conjunction with Wiresmith Technology has increased test efficiency and accuracy. It has also given Lontra the ability to further develop and optimise data analysis simulation techniques for future product design.
What if you’re not familiar with our domain?
We consider ourselves Systems Engineers. With a comprehensive background in engineering, we’re yet to encounter a domain for which we’ve not been able to develop a valuable system.
We’re always mindful of your insight and expertise which is why we constantly liaise with you and perform regular demos and testing to make sure we’re on track.
Won’t you always want to use LabVIEW?
Even though LabVIEW is our most productive environment (read why we think it is great here), it’s only one of our areas of expertise and can’t solve everything.
We’ve also developed expertise in web-based technologies and have working knowledge of other, less mainstream environments. This allows us to bring in additional expertise as required and integrate those solutions with LabVIEW.
In terms of writing custom software, we do that only when the job demands it. Often, we’re able to use our experience of other interfacing technologies to recommend and install an off-the-shelf solution.