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Sweet Apps

38 Posts tagged with the compactrio tag

Nuclear power plants are some of the most hazardous environments on the planet. Nuclear decommissioning, the process of dismantling defunct nuclear facilities, is dangerous due to high radiation and other factors such as heat, humidity, caustic fumes, and limited visibility. Sending human operators inside a facility is often too risky.


One solution is to use remote handling techniques, such as operating a robotic manipulator. However, current robotic manipulators are inadequate for nuclear decommissioning tasks because of the environment and design of the devices. Using NI LabVIEW system design software and NI CompactRIO hardware, James Fisher Nuclear (JFN) developed a safe, modular arm that operates with maximum dexterity to navigate in restricted environments.



With the help of NI products, JFN created a valuable tool that can solve many nuclear decommissioning challenges around the world. The robotic arm is safe, reliable, and versatile, and minimizes the risks for human operators working in a harsh environment.


>> Check out another Sweet App involving an assistive arm.

>> Read the full case study. 


The sleek physique of an Aston Martin makes it look like it can travel effortlessly at high speeds, so why not put its racing skills to the test? Not so fast – the engine workload of a race car, which spends most of its time at full throttle, is much more demanding than a normal car driving down the highway. Even a luxury car like an Aston Martin couldn’t hold up without serious modifications.


Aston Martin Racing (AMR) has competed in the 24 Hour Tour Le Mans, the world’s most demanding sports car race, since 2005. Last year, AMR won the championship in the Grand Touring Endurance category with its Aston Martin V8 Vantage. The transformation from luxury car to race car involves significant reengineering, so AMR put its engine engineering team to work.




Severe damage can be caused if race car engine behavior isn’t measured and understood. With the help of Computer Controlled Solutions (CCS), the team created a data acquisition device using NI CompactRIO hardware and NI LabVIEW system design software. This reliable and high-precision measurement system allowed AMR to perform necessary adjustments, ultimately improving engine longevity.


>> Read another Sweet App about racing.

>> Read the full case study.


As demand for electricity increases every year, so does the need for fusion energy research. And what better to help with that than a compact, cost-effective tokamak using NI CompactRIO hardware and NI LabVIEW software?

For those who don’t know, a tokamak is a torus-shaped device that uses magnetic fields to confine plasma, which is necessary given that plasma can reach temperatures of millions of degrees. A stable plasma discharge requires a magnetic field that moves around the torus in a helical path.


Tokamak Solutions develops small, spherical tokamaks that provide the 300 plasma research centers in the world with easier access to the technology they need to accelerate their research at a lower cost. The company has created the ST25 – a small, fully-operational tokamak with the potential to speed up the fusion R&D process and make fusion power widely available.


ST25 Tokamak.jpg


The ST25 uses the NI PCIe-1433 frame grabber, which uses NI-IMAQ drivers to collect high-speed video of the plasma at more than 1,000 frames per second. Electrifying!


Tokamak Solutions also chose LabVIEW and CompactRIO to manage the plasma control and data acquisition of the ST25. These NI products helped simplify the whole building process, yielding promising results in just a short time.


  >> Read the full case study.


Walking seems like the easiest thing in the world, right? However, it’s a very complicated process, involving hundreds of factors that must work together seamlessly. Researchers at the Texas A&M Bipedal Experimental Robotics (AMBER) Lab are studying human walking mechanisms in order to develop the next generation of robotic systems, from prosthetic devices to legged robots for space exploration.


Their latest success: using LabVIEW and the NI CompactRIO platform, they’ve built a robot that can achieve stable, efficient, human-like bipedal walking.




"With NI products, we could rapidly implement control algorithms, reuse existing code, and increase the efficiency in executing time-critical tasks by delegating the tasks between the real-time processor and FPGA hardware." - Dr. Aaron D. Ames, Texas A&M University


>> Check out another robotic Sweet App.


If you’ve ever watched rugby, you know it’s not the most gentle of sports. In fact, many sports scientists claim it’s the world’s most dangerous team sport, with an average of 1.4 serious injuries per game. Ouch.


The scrum is responsible for a large percentage of these major injuries. Comparable to tug-of-war, it involves eight players from each team locking heads and shoulders, then pushing against each other to gain ground and possession of the ball.


The International Rugby Board (IRB) decided that they needed a better understanding of the risk factors and physical demands of scrumming. The IRB asked the Rugby Science Group at Bath University to investigate, in order to understand and prevent injuries.




Phase 1 of the research focused on gathering data from real rugby teams scrumming against scrum machines, while Phase 2 involved data collection during team versus team scrummaging. The research group used the NI CompactRIO platform, NI LabVIEW software, and the latest in scrum machine technology to acquire accurate synchronised measurements during live scrummaging.


The best part? Their findings have changed the laws of international sport! The IRB council approved the group’s recommendations, and the new, safer rules have been in effect since last year. 


>> Learn more about this application.

>> Read another sports-related Sweet App.


If you visited the LabVIEW Zone at NIWeek 2013, you might have noticed an interesting chess board. I know, many people think “interesting chess” is an oxymoron, but stay with me.

Engineer’s chess, or robot chess, was inspired by wizard’s chess in the world of Harry Potter. Pieces move on their own, according to the players’ verbal commands.

In our version of wizard’s chess, you play against NI LabVIEW software, which runs on an embedded NI CompactRIO controller. The controller contains the chess algorithm, and controls the motion and vision of the chess demo.



The engineering chess board.


A LabVIEW user interface lets you know how much time you have left. When it’s your turn, you move your piece like a normal chess game, then push a button to confirm your move with the computer. 

LabVIEW responds based on its pre-programmed chess algorithm, moving all pieces associated with its move via an electromagnet—so it appears the pieces are moving by magic, without being touched.

We originally told you that LabVIEW was undefeated at chess, but we've realized our mistake (and wish we could use the obliviate charm to erase your memories). At least two NIWeek attendees and a few NI employees beat LabVIEW on the "easy" skill level (which thinks one move ahead). However, we have yet to hear about anyone defeating the "hard" LabVIEW algorithm (which thinks 20 moves ahead)!

NI engineers are working to extend the demo so that you can play against remote opponents instead of just a computer. One day soon, you’ll be able to challenge a friend in Dubai to a game, while watching the pieces move right in front of you!


>> Watch engineer’s chess in action.


If you thought building offshore wind turbines was easy, think again. The construction of these wind farms requires driving large monopiles into the seabed. How large? Up to 700 tons in weight, 75 meters long, and 7 meters in diameter. Specialized jack-up vessels host large cranes that carry and lower the piles into the water before hammering them into the seabed at depths of up to 40 m. The piles then serve as the foundation for installing wind turbine towers.

Keeping the pile vertical while driving it with a hydraulic hammer poses a serious challenge, especially when there are major currents and waves. Thus, Houlder Ltd. wanted to develop a pile guidance tool to hold and maintain the pile’s vertical position.




Engineers at Industrial Systems and Control Ltd. (ISC) were involved from the outset of this project. They used NI LabVIEW software and the LabVIEW Real-Time, LabVIEW FPGA, LabVIEW MathScript RT, and LabVIEW Touch Panel modules to implement the control software. Before connecting to the actual system, they tested the algorithm functionality using a detailed software emulator. They then used NI CompactRIO hardware to develop the complete control system for the gripper arm. They designed an algorithm combining the forward and inverse kinematics of both gripper jaws to compute the hydraulic cylinder lengths required to move the arm in a desired direction.

ISC moved from a blank sheet of paper to implementation, to factory testing, to successful sea trials in just a few months. As soon as the gripper arm and its software was installed on the MPI Discovery, it set sail for the Humber Gateway Offshore Wind Farm to install four monopiles and transition pieces (the visible, yellow base of offshore wind turbines). The site will consist of 73 turbines when completed in 2015. The system worked well and matched expectations from the factory testing, with just a few items requiring fine-tuning on the day. Way to go!

>>Learn more about this application.


After enduring a 9.0 magnitude earthquake in 2011, eastern Japan was hit by a devastating 23-foot tsunami. This tsunami disabled power and backup generators for three nuclear reactors at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, preventing the reactors from maintaining proper heating and cooling functions.

During the ensuing nuclear meltdown, residents of Fukushima Prefecture were evacuated and authorities needed to measure the dose of radiation in the area. Luckily, Kyoto University researchers, equipped with NI LabVIEW and NI CompactRIO, came to the rescue!

Within a week, researchers at the university created the Kyoto University Radiation Mapping (KURAMA) system. KURAMA was installed in specialized vehicles, which drove around collecting air samples to measure the level of radiation and then used GPS to tag the retrieval location.


Fukushima 1.png


How the KURAMA system worked.


KURAMA worked well and was a good solution immediately following the meltdown, but Dr. Minoru Tanigaki and other researchers kept improving their design—creating the KURAMA-II.

KURAMA-II used KURAMA’s LabVIEW software but shrunk the system to just two components: the CompactRIO monitoring system and a radiation detector. Where the KURAMA system contained lots of individual components wired together and required a specialized vehicle plus intensive installation, KURAMA-II is the size of a toolbox, fully automated, and can be placed in regular vehicles.


Fukushima 2.png


Authorities could equip local buses or cars with this KURAMA-II toolbox, connect it to a power source, and collect the data.


To date, no deaths or cases of radiation sickness have been reported from Fukushima. Over 100 KURAMA-II systems have been deployed to keep the area safe!


>> Hear Dr. Tanigaki’s story about KURAMA-II.


Those of us in the developed world often take electricity for granted and don’t realize how hard it is to get power in remote villages. Without access to the power grid, these villages have to use diesel or petroleum to run generators, so they only have power when they can get fuel.

Windlift used NI technology to develop a renewable, portable power alternative. The company’s airborne wind energy (AWE) technology uses a flexible airfoil to capture power from the wind. This foil replaces the blades and tower found on traditional wind turbines. Compared to these heavy parts, the foil is very lightweight so it doesn’t require a reinforced concrete foundation. Instead, the foil is tied to a trailer.




A ground station on the trailer converts the lift generated by the fabric foil into electrical power. Tethers unspool from the trailer as the wind blows—like a kite. When the foil reaches the end of the tether, it is rewound and then unspooled again, over and over. Each repetition of the process creates up to 12 kilowatts of net energy.

Various motors in the ground station interface with an NI CompactRIO embedded system. The CompactRIO also controls sensors that monitor the position of the airfoil, the tension of the tethers, and the flow of power. In the future, CompactRIO could even replace the user in an automated system!

  >> Read another Sweet App that took place in the sky.


Liver disease kills over 800,000 people worldwide every year. People living with liver disease need a viable therapy since transplants are only available to a small minority of patients. Hepa Wash GmbH in Germany developed an innovative liver dialysis prototype that aims to increase the liver disease survival rate by bridging the time between diagnosis and transplant – just as patients with chronic kidney failure can considerably extend their life expectancy with the help of dialysis.


Hepa Wash.PNG

In this prototype, called the HIP1001 System, the dialysis fluid dialysate binds to the toxins in the blood, which are then filtered out. HIP1001 uses the NI LabVIEW FPGA and LabVIEW Real-Time Modules and CompactRIO hardware to control the new dialysis therapy prototype. In addition, engineers at Hepa Wash GmbH used the NI Requirements Gateway to create cost-efficient, automatic Microsoft Word documents that comply with medical testing procedures. National Instruments Alliance Partner XOn Software GmbH also helped to develop the system’s software.

By using LabVIEW to develop the control software for both the animal and human prototypes, Hepa Wash GmbH delivered the first system within just seven months – a significant reduction in typical time to market. European market authorization for the device should be achieved soon!

>> Check out another medical Sweet App.


About 90 percent of tumor treatment successes are due to the efficacy of surgery and radiotherapy. The more familiar forms of cancer treatment, chemotherapy and radiation, often cause severe damage to both healthy and tumor cells. But there’s good news: the use of accelerated particle beams, known as hadron or proton therapy, is a step toward developing more targeted and effective cancer treatments that spare healthy tissues, which is critical when cancer develops near vital organs in the body.

Depending on the particular formation of each tumor, oncologists must frequently adjust the physical characteristics of particle beams, which requires a precise control system. By aiming the energetic ionizing particles accurately at the tumor, less energy is deposited into the healthy tissue surrounding the target tissue.


This complex treatment requires nearly 300 devices networked together to control the operation of the machine as well as access to the room itself. For secure access to the treatment rooms during the emission of nuclear radiation, engineers at CNAO developed a safety interlock system using the NI LabVIEW FPGA Module and NI PXI hardware.

Directing the beam at the tumor requires systems to prepare the beam, then measure and control beam intensity and position while distributing it evenly across the tumor. These systems, developed with LabVIEW and real-time NI PXI and NI CompactRIO FPGA-based hardware, measure beam intensity every microsecond and beam position every 100 µs with 100 to 200 micrometer accuracy. This beam controller system delivers the measurements, real-time control, and data visualization needed by the scientists operating the beam.

After completing dosimetry and radiobiology tests with proton beams, CNAO obtained the authorization to start treating patients. They estimate more than 3 percent of Italian radiotherapy patients (more than 3,000 new patients per year) will be treated with hadron therapy, and this number will steadily increase.


>> Watch a video of the hadron therapy system in action.


Think your NI CompactDAQ or NI CompactRIO setup is the most rugged? Prove it! We’re excited to announce the C Series Photo/Video Contest. We’re looking for the coolest, most extreme C Series systems, and our favorites will win prizes such as iPads, iPods, NI hardware, and brand-new LEGO MINDSTORMS® EV3 systems. Plus, there’s no limit to the number of photos and videos you can submit.





  • Best wiring or installation in a rugged environment (photo or video)
  • Most rugged or harsh environment (photo or video)
  • Most remote or uniquely deployed location (photo or video)
  • Most damage sustained to a still-functioning system (photo or video)
  • Most “likes” per votes by NI Community users (photos only)
  • Top rated application (videos only)


>> Submit your picture or video today at


Lions and tigers and robotic cheetahs, oh my! Researchers at MIT have created a 70-pound robotic “cheetah” that can run continuously on a treadmill for up to an hour and a half at 5 mph. It wastes very little energy and is on track to outpace its real-life counterpart in running efficiency.


Achieving energy efficiency in legged robots has proven surprisingly difficult because many electrically-powered robots require large battery packs and gears. Or, like Boston Dynamic‘s “Big Dog” robot, they must carry bulky gasoline engines and hydraulic transmissions. All of this machinery places a heavy burden on the robot and can waste substantial amounts of energy.


Professor Sangbae Kim, a mechanical designer, and Sangok Seok, a PhD student in system control, found a brilliant solution. They set large diameter electric motors into the robot’s shoulders, which produce high torque with very little wasted heat and combined them with regenerative motor drivers to achieve high overall efficiency. The motors can also be programmed to quickly adjust the robot’s leg stiffness and damping coefficient in response to outside forces, such as a push or a change in terrain.


Kim and Seok chose the NI cRIO-9082 controller to control the robot. “The MIT cheetah is a highly dynamic robot, so it requires a really fast control system,” said Seok. “The cRIO-9082 controller is the only embedded solution in the world that can keep up.” Further, the researchers maximized the use of FPGA and the i7 dual-core CPU through parallel programming to make the control faster. They also used the NI sbRIO-9642 board for treadmill control.


Ideally, this research could lead to robots that run on electric motors that can assist in disaster situations and perform emergency tasks autonomously for hours at a time.


Check out the video below to see the MIT cheetah’s first run:


>> See what else is possible with NI CompactRIO.


The future is here! Last month, Hyundai released the first commercial cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells in Denmark, and Toyota and BMW are partnering to research hydrogen fuel cell technology. Benefits including high torque, zero emissions, and quick refueling make hydrogen-powered cars an attractive option for the commercial car industry, but other groups have taken an interest as well.

The Forze Hydrogen Racing Team Delft, a team of 70 students from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, has developed six hydrogen-powered vehicles since its inception in 2008. The team started by first creating and racing hydrogen-powered go-karts, and in 2012 the team developed their own hydrogen fuel cell which allowed them to build the Forze V, the first-ever official competing Formula style race car powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. This year, the team is building the Forze VI, the first hydrogen powered car designed for real racing circuits.


The Forze VI is controlled by the NI CompactRIO platform and powered by a hydrogen fuel cell that generates electrical power for two electrical motors. Inside the fuel cell, which the team tests with NI CompactDAQ devices, hydrogen reacts with oxygen to produce electricity and water. Between the fuel cell and the motors, the car has an energy buffer that is used to store excess energy from the fuel cell and store recovered energy from breaking.





“The Forze VI will have around 100 kW of continuous power while the Forze V has around 15 kW,” said Tiemen Joustra, chief of embedded systems on the Forze team. “The peak power of the new car will be around 190 kW against 58 kW in the Forze V.”



Overall, the team’s goal is to promote the use of hydrogen through race cars. “We want to promote sustainability in a way that appeals to the general public, but we think hydrogen-powered road cars are reserved for the automobile industry,” said Joustra. “We would rather work towards a car for the Super Car Challenge, Le Mans, or Formula 3.”

The Forze VI is expected to hit the track for the first time in June and the team hopes it will be ready for a race near the end of summer.

Watch the Forze V in action below:




>> Learn more about the Forze Hydrogen Racing Team Delft.

>> Are you a big fan of racing? Find out how CompactRIO sped the development of an electric and hybrid race car.


Whether it was in the early ’90s on a Super Nintendo or more recently on a Nintendo Wii, at some point in your life, you’ve probably played Mario Kart. The latest version of Mario Kart allows players to view the track from the perspective of the driver for the first time. But our engineers at Waterloo Labs topped this with their latest Sweet App: real-life Mario Kart.



From throwing banana peels and turtle shells to make your opponents’ cars careen out of control to absorbing the power of mushrooms and stars on the track to accelerate your vehicle, this real-life Mario Kart system has it all!


The team at Waterloo Labs used NI CompactRIO hardware to control all of the valves and servos in the system and to communicate with all of the other cars in the race. Using information received from RFID tags embedded in the items picked up on the track, the CompactRIO device determines which action to perform on the vehicle, such as braking, accelerating, or turning.


>> See another Waterloo Labs application: Karaoke on Fire.

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