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Sweet Apps

August 2010

Our engineers ask customers to do the darndest things for the NIWeek graphical system design conference. For example, we asked one of our customers, Sisu Devices, to build a demo for our expo floor using a NERF gun, NI LabVIEW software, and vision tools.


NI vision tools track the NERF darts shot at the target and then move the target to block the darts using a 2-axis motion system.


Russ Aldridge from Sisu Devices shares all the details about how his company built the device:



I'd certainly say that's a Sweet App. Check out more demos from the NIWeek show floor and see what other customers are doing with NI tools.


Our co-founder and CEO, Dr. James Truchard (we know him as Dr. T) is a big proponent of the 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering, defined by the National Academy of Engineering. One of these world-wide challenges is to provide energy from fusion.

Fusion is one of the elusive alternative energy sources that have yet to be deemed practical. Why? Because, as of today, fusion reactors still consume more energy than they actually produce. To create fusion, it takes enormous amounts of heat and gravitational pressure to compress the nuclei of certain atoms into heavier nuclei, which releases energy. As such, human-engineered fusion has only been demonstrated on a small scale (excluding the formidable demonstrations of hydrogen bombs).

However, an underground sub-culture of DIY engineers and scientists have been tackling this challenge completely on their own, sans governmental stipends, institutional grants and shiny, new equipment. In fact, Mark Suppes has built his own fusion reactor in the comfort of his own workshop, thanks in part to low-cost data acquistion hardware (NI USB-6008) and a borrowed copy of LabVIEW 2009 software (which he had to install on a Mac, since his second-hand PC didn't have a DVD drive!).

We first caught wind of his wicked-awesome project when we happened to get a glance of the USB DAQ device in a CNN cover story:


We then found Mark's blog, Prometheus Fusion Perfection, where he is documenting his entire design process (subscribe to this blog if you're even the slightest geek, it is so incredibly interesting).

Turns out, Mark is using LabVIEW to set parameters for various fusion trials, and has even controlled the fusor using the graphical programming language. He's also working on integrating the USB-6008 with another programming language, Ruby. It seems LabVIEW got him up and running, aquiring data, quickly and efficiently.

Watch the CNN cover story video to learn more about how Mark is attempting to capture one of the greatest engineering feats of all time:


Learn more about NI's low-cost USB DAQ offering for your own application.


Vecna Robotics' Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot (BEAR) recently paid us a visit at the NIWeek graphical system design conference where we all learned about the strengths and talents of this versatile, humanoid robot. Using NI LabVIEW and CompactRIO, engineers were able to design a prototype and proof of concept for this patent-pending robot. The BEAR was designed to locate, lift, and rescue people in harm's way, and (simply put) to do what humans can't such as lift heavy loads and carry them long distances.


In addition to extracting humans, the BEAR can help with more logistical tasks, like handling munitions and delivering supplies. It’s payload capacity is 500 lbs, so it could definitely help as an extra hand on the battlefield. And because of it’s dexterity, it could perform maintenance functions as well, such as inspection, decontamination, and refueling. Saving time and effort allows troops to focus on the task at hand, which indirectly reduces the risk soldiers are exposed to.


Vecna Robotics President Daniel Theobald gave us a closer look of the BEAR during NIWeek:




And, like we said, the BEAR is designed to do more than just look cute:




Learn more about LabVIEW for robotics applications.

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