Research Resources for Controls, Robotics, and Mechatronics

Publish Date: Nov 12, 2012 | 8 Ratings | 4.62 out of 5 |  PDF

Table of Contents

  1. Overview
  2. Graphical System Design in Controls
  3. Graphical System Design in Robotics
  4. Graphical System Design in Mechatronics
  5. Additional Resources

 

1. Overview

Academic experimental research requires flexible, customizable, easy-to-use yet powerful tools for developing and implementing new and innovative algorithms, methods, and systems for controls, robotics, and mechatronics applications.

National Instruments offers a complete family of data acquisition, control, and data-logging devices for desktop, portable, embedded, and networked research applications and systems. You can easily configure and program these devices using NI LabVIEW, a development environment and graphical programming language ideal for performing data acquisition and control tasks, as well as for scientific computing and data visualization. Easily design, prototype, and implement new algorithms and mathematical models using a common set of tools that provide different levels of abstraction and models of computation within the same development environment.

The NI graphical system design approach for control and embedded design provides a unified platform that empowers you to integrate real-world signals with mathematical models and algorithms.

The NI graphical system design approach for control and embedded design provides a unified platform that empowers you to integrate real-world signals with mathematical models and algorithms. It allows code reuse and takes advantage of new advances in computing and hardware acceleration technologies such as multicore processors, Graphical Processing Unit (GPU), and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) for optimizing system performance in a way that outpaces traditional design methodologies. As a result, you can develop prototypes and proof-of-concepts (POC) in less time and with less effort, fewer errors, and lower total cost.

The LabVIEW graphical system design platform gives you the power to design and validate the design through real-world implementation with ease and the flexibility of its open, modular platform architecture.

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2. Graphical System Design in Controls

Control design is a key element in any robotics and mechatronics application. Both robotics and mechatronics systems use different control strategies in the form of mathematical models, algorithms, and methods to perform different control tasks with precision and reliability. Control design is a process that typically involves three steps:

  • Developing mathematical models that describe a physical system
  • Analyzing the models to learn about their dynamic characteristics
  • Creating a controller to achieve certain dynamic characteristics (goals) under specific conditions and boundaries

Usually, each of those tasks requires different software tools: one for modeling and simulating the plant and the controller, one for prototyping the controller and the physical plant, and one for implementing the controller in the field (process/machine/device). Both the prototyping and implementation (deployment) tasks require a tight integration with hardware (measuring, computing, processing), so that the controller you design can be tested with real-world signals under operating conditions that can resemble the real ones. Scientists and engineers usually want to have the flexibility to choose between using readily available, commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware tools, or creating their own custom designs. In both cases, it is best to use the same common software tools during the whole design-prototype-deploy process. NI LabVIEW offers a comprehensive approach to perform all these tasks within the same software development environment, providing a tight integration with different hardware options, including the possibility of generating C code to target specific hardware platforms used in custom embedded designs.

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3. Graphical System Design in Robotics

Control theory has made significant advances in the past century. These include developing optimal, stochastic/statistical, robust, adaptive, and evolutionary control methods used today in such robotics applications as space travel, satellites, unmanned autonomous vehicles, and many others. Also, new advances in image acquisition, motion control, embedded computing, wireless communications, and sensors/actuators in general, help to create a new generation of robotic systems for advanced academic research and development. Robotics applications include intelligent machines and systems designed to improve performance, safety, and productivity in the lab, field, and factory floor. Robots and intelligent machines can perform the work that could be too dangerous, dirty, precise, repetitive, or tedious for humans. New flexible and easy-to-use tools are required to design, develop, and implement robotics systems. The design of a robotic system requires software tools capable of not just representing and solving a wide spectrum of complex mathematical models and algorithms, but also of embedding the algorithms on dedicated real-time controllers and providing the tools for 3D visualization and rendering. LabVIEW and the NI hardware platform provide the tools you need for developing and prototyping state-of-the-art robotic systems for academic research and educational or industrial purposes. Also, you can easily integrate LabVIEW with other robotics modeling and simulation tools, providing the capability to handle real-world signals and embedded control to off-line robot design tools. NI has a lot of tools that target embedded systems.

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4. Graphical System Design in Mechatronics

Mechatronics research focuses on the application of electronics, controls, communications, instrumentation, and computational intelligence to industrial and manufacturing systems and processes. An example of a typical mechatronic system is an active/passive haptic device designed to improve the physical interaction between humans and machines. LabVIEW and the NI hardware platform provide the tools you need to develop new haptic interfaces that make use of actuators – such as motors and pneumatics – and a wide variety of sensors – such as load cells and strain gages – to measure and control the force added to the system with which the operator is interfacing. This makes it easier for an operator to interact with the system with little physical effort. Today, with the convergence of different science and engineering disciples into the mechatronics field, it is hard to define a very precise boundary between a mechatronic and robotics system. A robot can be considered a type of a mechatronic system, because it usually integrates electronics, controls, communications, instrumentation, and computational intelligence into one compact system. Perhaps a robot could be considered different from a typical mechatronic system because it is usually designed to perform repetitive tasks and operate in an autonomous mode, in many cases, under extreme conditions. LabVIEW provides the software tools required to efficiently design and prototype mechatronics systems. By combining LabVIEW with the appropriate desktop, mobile, or embedded hardware platform such as NI PXI and NI CompactRIO, you can easily design and prototype very reliable, real-time, high-performance, and flexible mechatronic systems.

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5. Additional Resources

Controls
See more information, case studies, tutorials, and demos on control design, modeling, and simulation using LabVIEW.
More info »

Robotics
Discover how you can use LabVIEW and graphical system design to create robots and intelligent machines for academic research.
More info »

Mechatronics
Explore different tools and resources for designing and prototyping mechatronic systems using LabVIEW and graphical system design.
More info »

 

Controls, Robotics, and Mechatronics

Below is a list of tutorials and examples that can provide help in designing, prototyping, and implementing control systems using LabVIEW and the NI hardware platform.

Controls Tutorials for LabVIEW

Introduction to LabVIEW in Three Hours for Control Design and Simulation

NI CompactRIO Control Design and Simulation Tutorial

Mechatronics Tutorials for LabVIEW- Virtual Machine Prototyping Overview and Business Benefits

 

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