Quickly Visualize Test Outcomes

Publish Date: May 19, 2017 | 2 Ratings | 1.00 out of 5 | Print


Traditional instruments and most software applications typically have fixed user interfaces (UIs). The data they present and the controls available for users were defined to cover all the capabilities of the particular hardware or software. This generic instrument approach places a burden on users, making it difficult to extract the relevant project-specific information from the general. To customize their UI, engineers often turn to general-purpose programming languages and development environments, spending significant time building the UI to communicate their test data.

The LabVIEW environment has integrated access to using instrument-specific soft front panels to get immediate access to your data. When you need to integrate the test outcomes from all your instruments into one view, the LabVIEW VI includes a panel where you, as the developer, can choose to display data or expose controls to your users. You can rapidly create a VI with the appropriate waveform and measurement controls for your specific need.

Evaluate LabVIEW to Validate or Verify Electronic Designs

Evaluate LabVIEW to Develop Production Test Systems

Table of Contents

  1. Instantly Gain Access to Instrument Data
  2. Reduce Time to Create a Professional Engineering UI
  3. Include Standard, Intuitive User Interface Elements
  4. Leverage Your LabVIEW Proficiency to Build TestStand UIs for Deployed Test Stations
  5. Additional Resources

1. Instantly Gain Access to Instrument Data

Any time you acquire, generate, or analyze data across your instruments, you ideally want to see the signals in a way that makes sense for that particular type of data and based on particular project needs.

For initial measurements and configuration settings, you have direct access to NI hardware signals through soft front panels. In addition, because LabVIEW is an open platform, there are thousands of free LabVIEW drivers for third-party instruments with accompanying ready-to-run shipping examples to quickly integrate and view your results. To help you visualize and gain further insight into your measurements, LabVIEW can display any acquired or processed data you have with interactive data viewing and analysis panels―no programming required.


Figure 1: Gain immediate access to NI modular instrument signals and configurations using included soft front panels. 

When you need additional visualization to make a decision, LabVIEW can display any engineering signal you have on your diagram. You can right-click on the wire to probe the real-time value or select Create» Indicator to add the appropriate display immediately to your front panel.


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2. Reduce Time to Create a Professional Engineering UI

LabVIEW includes drag-and-drop UI objects and design tools to help you quickly build professional UIs for sharing your measurement system with test operators, technicians, and engineers.

NI develops LabVIEW with technical use cases in mind, unlike most programming languages and environments, so engineering and scientific displays are included by default. Display your temperature using a thermometer, view your digital test vector with a digital waveform graph, and compare time and frequency domain information side by side. If you want to see your voltage expressed in engineering units (that is, 10 mV rather than .01), you can. If you see something unusual in your waveform and want to take a closer look, you can interactively manipulate the graph by using the zoom tool or simply clicking on the scale and typing new end points.


Figure 2: Combine all the most important information from a test system into an application-specific GUI using LabVIEW for engineers or test system operators.


With LabVIEW, you have full control over what you make visible to your user on the front panel and which parts of your application you keep to the block diagram source code. Right-click a control to edit properties, such as input range and coercion, or create tooltips that make your application easier to use and understand. To best communicate your results, you can customize UI objects such as colors, units, scale, range, and zoom directly on your front panel.


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3. Include Standard, Intuitive User Interface Elements

Common OS Controls and Indicators

LabVIEW contains all the standard OS-defined controls such as number and string displays, buttons, slides, progress bars, and tabs. You have the option of using controls styled with LabVIEW or OS or modifying the style of the controls to meet your needs.

Figure 3: LabVIEW Style Standard Controls and Indicators


Engineering-Specific Controls and Indicators

In addition to the standard controls you would find in most full-featured programming environments, LabVIEW contains many more controls and indicators that are more common in scientific and engineering applications. Using the included controls, you can create VIs with front panels that resemble familiar physical instruments and are consequently easier for operators to understand and use.

Figure 4: Engineering Controls and Indicators


Analog and Digital Waveform Graphs

After you acquire or generate data, or if data is readily available in a file or database, you can use a graph or chart to display data in a graphical form.

Graphs and charts differ in the way they display and update data. Graphs display a set of data, which is overwritten every time you send new values to the graph. The waveform graph, which displays one or more plots of evenly sampled measurements, plots single-valued functions, as in y = f(x), with points evenly distributed along the x-axis, such as acquired time-varying waveforms. You can add cursors and annotations both interactively and programmatically to highlight important data points.

Figure 5: Waveform Graph With Annotation and Cursor 


In contrast, a chart appends new data points to those points already in the display to create a history. On a chart, you can see the current reading or measurement in context with data previously acquired. When more data points are added than can be displayed on the chart, the chart scrolls so that new points are added to the right side of the chart while old points disappear to the left.


Figure 6: Waveform Chart in Sweep Mode


3D graphs are included in the LabVIEW Full and Professional development systems. These are useful for many real-world data sets, such as the temperature distribution on a surface or a joint time-frequency analysis, where you need to visualize data in three dimensions. With the 3D graphs, you can visualize 3D data and alter the way that data appears by modifying the 3D graph properties.



Figure 7: 3D Surface Graph


Picture Controls and Decorations

When you have custom display needs, the picture control and 3D picture control give you blank canvases on which you can draw whatever visualizations you need. Picture controls are especially useful when working with control applications or device testing where being able to see the device you are controlling or testing makes the data more meaningful and immediately actionable. You can also map sensor data directly to an existing 3D model.


Figure 8: Example Front Panel With a 3D Picture Control Showing a Helicopter Simulator


LabVIEW front panels can also display decorations and static images to aid organization, explanation, or branding by importing common file types such as PNG, JPG, BMP, and GIF.

Image Processing and Machine Vision Displays

The NI Vision Development Module for image processing applications features several visualization tools, including the capabilities to display and analyze pictures, images, and video in real time or offline (JPG, PNG, TIFF files) using color or black and white cameras, both analog and digital. You can display and analyze images from infrared cameras in real time.

Figure 9: Matrix Code, Infrared, Color, and Grayscale Images Displayed by the Vision Development Module


For example, using the Vision Development Module, you can capture images directly from a standard microscope or an atomic force microscope (AFM) and make measurements directly on the image.

The following example features an image of nanotubes (100 µm scale) for which the Vision Development Module is used to detect edges between nanotubes and measure the distance between them.

Figure 10: Edge Detection on an Aligned Nanotubes Image



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4. Leverage Your LabVIEW Proficiency to Build TestStand UIs for Deployed Test Stations

TestStand is test management software that accomplishes functions common across test systems, including test code execution, report generation and database integration, limit checking, and user management. This software allows you to call existing LabVIEW code as part of a test sequence with the option to display a front panel UI for visibility into unique test performance. When building user interfaces for your TestStand systems, you can take advantage of existing LabVIEW proficiency by developing in the LabVIEW environment using TestStand’s Active X-based UI controls. TestStand is shipped with many sample UIs written in LabVIEW to facilitate the creation of professional UIs.

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5. Additional Resources


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