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National Instruments unleashes wave of USB-to-FPGA multifunction devices for real-time acquisition and control

Xilinx Employee
Xilinx Employee
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The National Instruments (NI) R Series multifunction RIO devices give you a fast way to implement a data-acquisition instrument or a closed-loop controller using the LabVIEW Graphical Programming Environment and a USB port on your desktop or laptop computer.


NI R Series multifunction RIO devices.jpg 



The six previously announced members of the NI R Series were based on the PXI interface and Xilinx Virtex-5 FPGAs. The four new products are all based on Xilinx Kintex-7 All Programmable devices, with significant increases in resources, particularly DSP resources, as you can see from this graph:



NI R Series RIO Table.gif


In addition, the USB-7855R and USB-7856R boost analog sample rates to 1Msamples/sec on the products’ eight 16-bit analog input and eight 16-bit analog output channels. Also note that the new R Series multifunction RIO devices are available in metal cases or as board-only products.


I saw the product in action at this week’s EELive! conference in San Jose. It was being used to control a dual-propeller dynamics demonstrator capable of variable pitch and yaw. I would have shot video, but these rotors are incredibly noisy and drowned out the explanation, so here’s a photo:



 NI R Series Dynamics Demonstration.jpg



The dynamics demonstrator is on the right and looks like a stylized blue helicopter. There’s a main rotor propeller on the far right and a tail rotor in the center of the photo for two degrees of freedom. A control box with a joystick (on the left) is also connected to the R Series box.


The dynamics simulator’s two rotors physically interact so there are two distributed and cross-linked PID (proportional, integral, derivative) controllers implemented in the R Series multifunction RIO device to control the rotors. Each PID controller is actually split into separate portions: PI and D. The R Series multifunction RIO device used with NI’s LabVIEW Graphical Programming Environment makes it easy to quickly try out different embedded control configurations. Once a configuration is loaded into the R Series board, the PC plays a passive role so latency over the USB port is irrelevant, permitting real-time control of even the most complex, high-speed electromechanical control algorithms. NI calls these sorts of systems “cyber-physical systems,” a term gaining popularity with the NSF and other US government agencies.


For more information on using the NI R Series, click here.