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A phasor is a complex number that represents a sinusoidal wave’s amplitude, frequency, and phase. Electrical power-generation and –distribution companies use phasor measurements to help them gauge the health and efficiency of their systems as they enter the new world of many smaller renewable power generation plants (wind and solar) and new load challenges (conversion from incandescent lamps to compact fluorescents and LEDS and electric-car chargers, to name but two examples). National Instruments (NI) has just introduced a Phasor Measurement Unit (PMU) based on the company’s CompactRIO embedded-control and data-acquisition system. In turn, the NI CompactRIO is based on a Xilinx Zynq SoC.



NI PMU.jpg


NI Phasor Measurement Unit



The PMU is part of NI’s Grid Automation System, which is designed to be installed throughout a power grid. Readings from this distributed grid instrumentation then informs and guides control-room decisions. National Grid UK has already adopted NI’s Grid Automation System.


For more information about the Zynq-based NI CompactRIO data-acquisition and control system, see “National Instruments Shrinks Product, Improves Performance, and Grows Available Market Using the Xilinx Zynq All Programmable SoC.”




3-level, 10kW Power Inverter uses Silicon Carbide MOSFETs. See it at Embedded World 2015

by Xilinx Employee ‎02-11-2015 01:57 PM - edited ‎04-24-2015 01:05 PM (41,007 Views)

Whether it’s for power inverters or motor control, you need precise waveform control to drive magnetic components efficiently while minimizing distortion and EMI. Xilinx Alliance Member QDESYS has developed such control algorithms and you can see the company’s Zynq-based 3-level power inverter demo in the Xilinx booth at this month’s Embedded World 2015 in Nuremberg, Germany. The 10kW inverter for motor drives and energy applications uses twelve Silicon-Carbide MOSFETs and a Zynq SoC for hardware-in-the-loop control.



Qdesys 3-Level Power Inverter Board Photo.jpg



For more information on this design, see “10KW power inverter and motor controller employs SiC MOSFETs under Zynq control.”



The Ethernet steamroller is now on Industrial Automation Road. See it at Embedded World 2015

by Xilinx Employee ‎02-11-2015 01:36 PM - edited ‎04-24-2015 01:06 PM (44,808 Views)

One thing that Industrial Automation has in abundance is networking standards—many, many incompatible standards. As it has in so many industries, Ethernet is poised to bring order out of this chaos—eventually. You can see why later this month when you’ll find two Zynq-based Industrial Ethernet demos in the Xilinx booth at Embedded World 2015 in Nuremberg, Germany:


20-minute video explores the Zynq-based Red Pitaya Programmable Instrumentation Platform’s capabilities

by Xilinx Employee ‎12-18-2014 09:55 AM - edited ‎04-24-2015 01:06 PM (63,406 Views)

Martin Lorton, a video blogger in the UK, has just posted a practical, hands-on boot up and test video for the Red Pitaya, a Zynq-based, open-source, programmable instrument platform. Lorton’s video is nearly 20 minutes long and it just scratches the surface of this fascinating product. Lorton received the Red Pitaya from Red Pitaya’s European distributor, RS Components.


The first thing Lorton does is power up the board and measure the current draw from the USB power supply. It’s a low 800mA. He then tests out the Red Pitaya’s oscilloscope and signal generator functions. Lorton says he’s surprised with the oscilloscope application’s excellent, responsive display update rate. He also notes that the oscilloscope app supplied with Red Pitaya is rudimentary and that it’s possible to upgrade the performance through application programming.


In fact, you can create entirely new instruments by taking advantage of the on-board, dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor and the FPGA—both built into the Red Pitaya’s Zynq All Programmable SoC. One such instrument that’s been developed since the Red Pitaya’s introduction is an LCR meter, which seems to be of great interest to Lorton.


Industry 4.0: Green Power, Context-Aware Intelligent Systems, Industrial Ethernet, and Functional Safety

by Xilinx Employee ‎12-16-2014 10:12 AM - edited ‎04-24-2015 01:07 PM (44,392 Views)

Christoph Fritsch from Xilinx presented a 15-minute talk with details on designing Industry 4.0 Cyber-Physical Systems at the SPS IPC Drives show in Nuremberg, Germany last month. Embedded Know-How, an online incarnation of Embedded Control Europe magazine, recorded the presentation. You can watch it here.


Fritsch made several important points about Industry 4.0 in this talk. Key underlying elements include:


  • Green power—for lower operating expenses (OPEX)
  • Context-Aware Intelligent Systems—Sensor-based systems that include advanced sensing abilities such as specialized vision to help automate complex industrial processes
  • The Industrial Internet of Things—the convergence of dozens of mutually incompatible, legacy industrial networks into a universal, industrialized version of Ethernet
  • Functional safety—to meet new governmental safety requirements such as IEC61508


It should not be surprising to learn that Xilinx and several of its Alliance Program members are actively working in all of these areas. For example, the Xcell Daily blog just discussed the Green Power work being done with QDESYS to develop advanced motor controllers based on Xilinx Zynq All Programmable SoCs and SiC (silicon-carbide) switching power transistors (see “10KW power inverter and motor controller employs SiC MOSFETs under Zynq control).


Again, to see the 15-minute video, click here.

10KW power inverter and motor controller employs SiC MOSFETs under Zynq control

by Xilinx Employee ‎12-11-2014 03:55 PM - edited ‎04-24-2015 01:07 PM (43,220 Views)

Multilevel power converters employ more than two voltage levels to achieve smoother and less distorted ac-to-dc, dc-to-ac, and dc-to-dc power conversion and motor control. QDESYS has developed a laptop-sized, 10KW, 3-level power inverter and motoro controller based on twelve SiC (silicon-carbide) MOSFETs. The design employs a Zynq-based Avnet MicroZed or PicoZed SOM (System on Module) to control the SiC power MOSFETs using RPFM (regenerative pulse frequency modulation) and to provide system communications with the outside world. (For more technical information about RPFM, see Dr. Giulio Corradi’s EDN article “FPGA high efficiency, low noise pulse frequency space vector modulation--Part I” and “FPGA high efficiency, low noise pulse frequency vector modulation—Part II.” PDFs of these two articles are attached below.)


Here’s a block diagram of the QDESYS design:



Qdesys 3-Level Power Inverter.jpg



Here’s a photo of the resulting system including the QDESYS power-inverter carrier card, the Avnet MicroZed SOM, and an ISM Networking FMC Module.



Qdesys 3-Level Power Inverter Board Photo.jpg


SiC MOSFETs can switch higher voltages and currents at higher temperatures (175°C), have a larger band-gap and high voltage breakdown (1200V), and exhibit fast switching capabilities that can deliver better performance for power inverters when compared to IGBTs. The 3-level power inverter design mitigates motor-control issues caused by long power cables between the controller and the motor or load by employing smaller voltage steps. The smaller voltage steps also reduce voltage surges and curb rise times at the motor terminals. The waveform output is cleaner because the effective switching frequency of a 3-level power inverter is twice the actual switching frequency. Here’s a comparison of the two waveforms for illustration:



2-level versus 3-level power inverter waveforms.jpg



For more information about the QDESYS SiC power inverter and motor controller, click here. For a complete presentation about this technology, click here.



Advanced industrial communications and control apps on display at SPS/IPC/Drives in Nuremberg, Nov 25-27

by Xilinx Employee ‎11-14-2014 11:47 AM - edited ‎04-24-2015 01:08 PM (44,966 Views)

Industrial power, control, and communications applications for FPGAs and the Zynq SoC will overflow the Xilinx booth (Hall 4 #169) in Nuremberg this coming November 25-27 at the SPS/IPC/Drives show. The following Xilinx Alliance members and Xilinx will be showing these advanced industrial applications:


  • QDESYS: High-performance silicon carbide multilevel power inverter with low THD, high ratio power/volume, three-level modulation with very low EMI, low switching loss, and ultra-fast control loops
  • QDESYS: EtherCAT fast electric drive with an embedded EtherCAT slave controller IP core from Beckhoff GmbH
  • Silicon Software: Embedded computer vision for intelligent stations showcasing high-speed image processing and safe recognition of inspected objects
  • HMS: Anybus support of all major Fieldbus and industrial Ethernet communications using the Zynq SoC
  • ZHAW School of Engineering: Hardware accelerated Profinet implementation in an FPGA allows full bandwidth utilization of Fast Ethernet (100 Mbit/s)
  • SoC-e: zero-loss switchover in a high-availability cyber-physical system using HSR/PRP (High-Availability Seamless Ring, Parallel Redundancy Ring) IP and IEEE1588-2008
  • Xilinx: a safety-oriented motor control system for functional safety systems based on dual-core, lockstep processors implemented in an FPGA




Teardown Thursday: See the Zynq-based NI VirtualBench and Cloudium IMP torn apart live at ARM TechCon.

by Xilinx Employee ‎10-16-2014 04:33 PM - edited ‎04-24-2015 01:08 PM (110,921 Views)

Earlier this month at ARM TechCon, I had the pleasure of moderating a double teardown panel at ARM TechCon with Kyle Bryson, Principal Architect at National Instruments and John Hickey, CEO of Cloudium Systems. First, we tore apart the National Instruments VirtualBench, an All-in-One Benchtop Instrument that combines the functions of an MSO (mixed-signal oscilloscope), a logic analyzer, a digital multimeter, an arbitrary waveform generator, and a programmable power supply. There are also a few software-controlled digital I/O lines for creating test and control systems. Next, we tore apart a Cloudium Systems Integrated Media Platform, a small set-top-box-like, cloud-oriented server designed to handle multiple compressed video and audio streams.


Both of these products are based on the Xilinx Zynq SoC and the following video shows you how the two products were designed and constructed and what Zynq features were used to realize the designs.


This week, it’s Teardown Thursday at ARM TechCon in Santa Clara. Hope to see you there!

by Xilinx Employee ‎09-29-2014 10:48 AM - edited ‎04-24-2015 01:09 PM (42,959 Views)

This week’s ARM TechCon in Santa Clara at the convention center. On Thursday at 11:30am, we’ll be tearing down two very interesting Zynq-based products on the exhibit floor. I suspect you won’t want to miss the event because I know there will be design tips galore revealed during these teardowns.


First, we’ll be pulling the covers off of the National Instruments VirtualBench, a many-instruments-in one-box product. (Something I’ve wanted to do ever since the product was announced a year ago.) The NI VirtualBench incorporates the features of a mixed-signal oscilloscope, function generator, logic analyzer, DMM, programmable dc power supply, and a set of programmable digital I/O control lines in one compact package that won’t consume very much bench space. It uses either a PC or a Tablet as its user interface.


 NI Virtual Bench Photo.jpg


National Instruments VirtualBench



The second product we’ll open up is the Cloudium Integrated Media Processing Platform, a fanless video compression/decompression box designed to move HD video and audio bidirectionally through the Internet and through the cloud with maximum efficiency. The box we’ll be opening up is called the Cloudium Systems Zero Client and the Zynq SoC inside the box provides flexibility that allows users to upgrade to new protocols easily without opening the box. But we’re going to open it anyway.



Cloudium Systems Zero Client.jpg 

Cloudium Systems Zero Client

Avnet X-fest Asia events now open for registration. Events in November through December

by Xilinx Employee ‎09-18-2014 09:39 AM - edited ‎01-07-2016 04:29 PM (46,416 Views)

X-fest logo.png


Avnet has opened registration for the X-fest sites in Asia:


  • Beijing, Tuesday, November 04, 2014
  • Xian, Thursday, November 06, 2014
  • Sydney, Friday, November 07, 2014
  • Singapore, Tuesday, November 11, 2014
  • Shanghai, Thursday, November 13, 2014
  • Shenzhen, Tuesday, November 18, 2014
  • Seoul, Thursday, November 20, 2014
  • GuangZhou, Thursday, November 20, 2014
  • Chengdu, Tuesday, November 25, 2014
  • Shenyang, Thursday, November 27, 2014
  • Nanjing, Tuesday, December 02, 2014
  • Hsinchu, Thursday, December 04, 2014
  • Bangalore, Tuesday, December 09, 2014
  • Taipei, Thursday, December 11, 2014
  • Hangzhou, Tuesday, December 16, 2014


X-fest is a mix of product demonstrations and technical seminars. If you’re interested in learning about the use of Xilinx All Programmable FPGAs and Zynq SoCs, I can recommend these day-long events. I feel confident in telling you that it will be time well spent.


Register here


Zynq SoC and Sensor Fusion demo, live from X-fest San Jose

by Xilinx Employee ‎09-15-2014 10:40 AM - edited ‎04-24-2015 01:10 PM (45,963 Views)

Global Technical Marketing Engineer Dan Rozwood demonstrated his Zynq-based sensor fusion demo at last week’s one-day Avnet X-fest held in San Jose. The demo was inspired by the sort of sensing needed for an industrial plastics extruder. It combines data from at least nine sensor types:


  1. Analog and digital isolated inputs
  2. Remote current sensing
  3. RTD temperature sensor
  4. Ambient pressure transducer
  5. Quad thermocouple sensor
  6. Accelerometer to sense motor movements and bearing health
  7. Voltage monitor and power-consumption sensor
  8. MR (magneto resistive) sensor for monitoring motor movement
  9. Inductive sensor for monitoring motor movement


All of these sensors connect to appropriate interfaces in the Zynq SoC, which provides true parallel processing to ensure the time correlation among the sensor readings. As Rozwood says in the 8-minute video below, sensor fusion is about “putting three things in and getting four out.” By that, he means that the various sensor inputs can be combined to derive other measurements from the sensed parameters.


Tiny Zynq-based robotics controller spotted at X-fest San Jose

by Xilinx Employee ‎09-12-2014 03:27 PM - edited ‎04-24-2015 01:10 PM (46,666 Views)

I had to write about this cool little Zynq-based robotic instrument controller I saw at X-fest San Jose yesterday. It’s a project by Dr. Lawrence West, president of Swift Control Systems here in Silicon Valley, who I met by pure chance. By eyeball estimation, the circular controller board measures a mere three inches or so in diameter. It sports a variety of analog and digital sensor inputs and communications ports. This board is designed to control a dual-gimbal mirror assembly on an optical table. The idea is for the components on the optical table to be able to talk to each other, making mirror and optics alignments much easier and saving hours of setup time. Cool idea.


I plunked the board on a nearby table to shoot some images. Here’s a photo of the top of the board:



Zynq-based Robot Controller Top.jpg


You do not know DO-254. Here’s how to fix that next month in LA

by Xilinx Employee ‎08-27-2014 04:26 PM - edited ‎04-24-2015 01:10 PM (49,843 Views)

Think you understand DO-254? Maybe you do. Maybe not. If you’re ducking DO-254 requirements using COTS, your free ride is about to end.


COTS hardware: You’re OK. Using COTS IP? Welcome to DO-254.


Are you working only on equipment for military aircraft (mission first)? Then you might know that DO-254 only applies to commercial aircraft (safety critical). But what if the military aircraft is used in civilian airspace for civilian missions? UAVs in particular are included in this gray area. Welcome to DO-254.


Do you think that SWCEH-001 only applies to software? You might want to check that assumption. “The escape routes are closing,” said Michelle Lang of Logicircuit at a Mentor Graphics IESF conference held earlier this year. Welcome to DO-254.


Enough? Get your fix at the FAA’s 2014 National Systems, Software and Airborne Electronic Hardware Conference, Sept. 23-25 at LAX. Logicircuit and Xilinx will be there to help you wrap your head around DO-254 certification’s finer points.


There’s no fee for the event but registration is required. Hurry because you must register no later than September 8 and attendance is limited to the first 375 registrants. (Sorry, I've just been told it's full.)


Meanwhile, here’s more than a taste—a great little intro to DO-254 video made by Michelle Lang at Mentor’s IESF:






It’s still not a walk (or drive) in the park, but it’s easier than ever to build a self-driving car. Engineering students at KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) needed only two years to develop their first self-driving car, the EureCar (as in Eureka!). EureCar uses a high-precision positioning system, seven laser scanners, and four video cameras to drive itself along a pre-planned path while avoiding obstacles and obeying various traffic laws. EureCar Turbo, the follow-on project based on a bright yellow Hyundai Veloster, took six months to develop and only two months were needed to develop new software for the vehicle.



EureCar Turbo.jpg



The control systems in the EureCar and EureCar Turbo are based on National Instruments’ (NI) CompactRIO-9024 Real-Time Controller and the CompactRIO -9114 8-slot reconfigurable chassis, which contains a Xilinx Virtex-5 FPGA. The design also uses several NI CompactRIO modules plugged into the 8-slot chassis to communicate with the car’s sensors and actuators, which include the LIDAR and video cameras, a GPS unit, and an inertial navigation package. The sophisticated closed-loop control system is based on fuzzy logic and PID loops. It’s programmed with NI’s LabVIEW and the LabVIEW FPGA module.


Nimble underwater Sepios robot gets 6 axes of motion from four fins controlled by Zynq-based NI myRIO

by Xilinx Employee ‎08-25-2014 01:55 PM - edited ‎04-24-2015 01:11 PM (138,926 Views)

Four undulating fins serve as the sole motive force giving the student-built Sepios underwater robot six axes of freedom:


  • Up/down
  • Left/right
  • Forward/back
  • Roll
  • Pitch
  • Yaw



Sepios Underwater Robot.jpg



This student project was one of three highlighted at the NI Engineering Impact Awards dinner during the recent NI Week held in Austin, Texas. It was the student project award winner in the NI Global Student Design Showcase 2014.



Solid-fuel rocket motors are usually binary things: they’re either on or off. Once on, they burn until empty. A student design team at the University of North Carolina Charlotte decided to put some analog control into their solid-fuel rocket by modulating the motor’s thrust with a variable-geometry nozzle extension; the purpose is to use thrust modulation to achieve desired altitudes repeatable accuracy. A ceramic-sleeved metal cylinder serves as a variable nozzle extension and a high-torque servo motor controls the effective length of the extension to modulate rocket-motor thrust during the 3.69 second burn. Extending the cylinder gives the exhaust gasses a larger expansion chamber causing under expansion of the exhaust, which in turn decreases thrust and acceleration. A control loop constantly attempts to match the pre-loaded acceleration profile by adjusting the size of the expansion chamber with the objective of attaining a targeted altitude of 3100 feet.


London Underground relies on an FPGA-assisted track-monitoring system to keep the trains rolling safely

by Xilinx Employee ‎08-22-2014 04:59 PM - edited ‎04-24-2015 01:12 PM (45,729 Views)


By Dave Wilson, Academic Marketing Director, National Instruments


About 1.7 billion people ride the London Underground every year. The Victoria Line alone operates 33 trains per hour and carries 213 million passengers per year. An 8-year, £1 billion investment program upgraded and replaced the Victoria Line’s rolling stock and signaling and control systems. The upgraded system uses 385 JTCs (jointless track circuits) to detect train position and maintain safe train separation while delivering train headways (the tme or distance between trains) capable of meeting the line’s extremely demanding timetable. JTCs are now the sole means of train detection on the Victoria Line and play a critical role in the safe and reliable operation of the railway. However, no provision was made for track condition monitoring during the design and installation of the new track. That’s a problem. London Underground track signal failures cost the operation £1.7 billion annually.


Modern railway track is often continuously welded; joints are welded during track installation. Jointless track offers many benefits but really complicates railway signaling because there are no natural breaks in the rail to form block sections. Instead, different audio frequencies are injected into each block section as markers. Tuned circuits are connected across the rails at section boundaries to confine one block’s signals to one track section.


The London Underground’s Victoria Line employs variable-length, frequency-driven, tuned electrical JTCs. The circuits energize and de-energize as trains pass over each section. Each JTC includes an electrical receiver unit matched to the frequency of the track circuit. The receiver processes the incoming signal and provides a sample signal that can be used to check the health of the track circuit.


After the track upgrade, the original method for establishing the track’s health was to check each track circuit manually with a digital multimeter—a test procedure that somehow seems out of step with a passenger load of nearly a quarter billion passengers per year. Clearly, test automation was needed to detect and predict track failures and to inform a pre-emptive maintenance plan. London Underground engineers selected National Instruments’ (NI) FPGA-based CompactRIO reconfigurable embedded control and acquisition system to automate JTC testing and to monitor 385 deep Tube assets in real time on an operating railway.



By Dave Wilson, Academic Marketing Director, National Instruments


The XV Crosstrek Hybrid is Subaru's first hybrid vehicle. Safety, reliability, and performance requirements complicate passenger vehicle test programs and make them more difficult to engineer. Hybrid engines make testing even more complex. Hybrid ECUs (engine control units) must balance the power delivered by the hybrid vehicle’s internal combustion engine and its electric motor to the drivetrain over a huge range of operating conditions. Ensuring driver and passenger safety and vehicle reliability means testing all parts of the vehicle—including the ECU—in widely varying conditions and severe environments.



Suburu XV Crosstrek Hybrid.jpg



Because the XV Crosstrek Hybrid is Subaru's first hybrid vehicle, the test program had to be extremely comprehensive. Subaru wanted to ensure the vehicle upheld its industry-recognized safety standards. This meant testing under varied conditions including scenarios nearly impossible to create in real-world testing. In icy driving conditions, for example, wheels can experience a sudden loss of traction during acceleration, which can cause a dramatic increase in motor speed and instability in the vehicle. This particular behavior is extremely difficult and expensive to reproduce.


As a result of this complexity, Subaru engineers developed a comprehensive test program that would have required 2300 hours to complete using conventional testing methods—clearly impractical. The solution was to create a virtual test environment so that much of the powertrain testing could occur in the lab before moving to real-world tests. Test engineers developed an HIL (hardware in the loop) simulation based on National Instruments’ (NI) FlexRIO hardware and LabVIEW graphical design environment. NI’s FlexRIO product line is based on Xilinx Virtex FPGAs.



By Dave Wilson, Academic Marketing Director, National Instruments


When National Instruments (NI) announced its first FPGA-based VST (Vector Signal Transceiver) in at NI Week in August, 2012, M3 Systems realized that it could meld its expertise in developing high-performance positioning and navigation equipment with NI hardware to create interesting tools for the GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) markets. The first such tool is M3’s StellaNGC multi-constellation GNSS simulator, which is used for testing positioning and navigation equipment by simulating the signals transmitted by the multiple positioning satellite constellations currently in medium earth orbit. Those constellations include multiple satellites in the USA’s GPS (Global Positioning System), Europe’s Galileo, Russia’s GLONASS, and China’s BeiDou/COMPASS global navigation systems. Each constellation uses different communications frequencies, which complicates the design of a multi-constellation GNSS simulation system like the StellaNGC.


M3 Systems StellaNGC.jpg



M3’s StellaNGC makes a GNSS receiver believe that it is traveling along a user-defined trajectory by simulating the RF transmissions that would be received from each satellite in a relevant constellation along this trajectory. The heart of the StellaNGC GNSS simulator is the Constellator, which M3 developed in cooperation with CNES, the French space agency. The constellator simulates the position of each satellite for each selected constellation. M3 used NI’s LabVIEW for easy integration of the Constellator along with other must-have features such as trajectory definition, atmospheric models, and antenna patterns.


X-band radar developed with NI’s LabVIEW FPGA and FlexRIO fights guerilla rainstorms in Japan

by Xilinx Employee ‎08-21-2014 10:52 AM - edited ‎04-24-2015 01:13 PM (45,019 Views)


By Dave Wilson, Academic Marketing Director, National Instruments


“Guerilla rainstorm” is the label Japanese media uses for a short, drenching downpour that appears unexpectedly and dumps more than 100mm of rain per hour. Urban heat islands and local winds precipitate these storms, which cause considerable damage including house flooding and destruction, river flooding, and mudslides in mountainous areas of Japan. Sometimes there’s loss of life. Existing weather-radar systems designed to predict weather and monitor hurricanes and rain fronts can be quite large and expensive, which hinders deployment. Furuno Electric in Japan decided to develop a new, compact, high-resolution (1m), low-cost X-band (9.4GHz) radar to provide Japanese cities and towns with an early-warning capability for guerilla storms.



Furuno X-Band Radar on Watch.jpg



Furuno, which initially produced a fish finder back in 1948, is now a leading electronics vendor of navigation and GPS, medical, fishing, networking, and radio communications equipment all based on the company’s expertise in ultrasound and RF. Weather radars represent an entirely new business for Furuno.


FPGAs help Airbus juggle noise, pollution, and efficiency in open-rotor jet engines

by Xilinx Employee ‎08-19-2014 11:02 AM - edited ‎04-24-2015 01:14 PM (47,827 Views)


By Dave Wilson, Academic Marketing Director, National Instruments



Airbus is developing a new, innovative type of aircraft with open-rotor propulsion as part of the European Clean Sky program. Each engine uses two contra-rotating open rotors located at the tail of the aircraft and this configuration promises to increase fuel efficiency by a whopping 25%. However exposed fan blades operating at jet-engine RPMs are extremely loud, especially at takeoff, so noise abatement is also an important consideration. Airbus built a scale model of the proposed aircraft and its engines for wind-tunnel testing and asked NLR (The National Aerospace Laboratory in the Netherlands) to develop a pressure, strain, and acoustic measurement instrumentation system for the model. NLR is an independent, non-profit research institute that conducts contract research. NLR’s department of avionics technology helps develop and install instrumentation in wind tunnel test models for commercial and military aircraft and space vehicles.



Airbus Aircraft Model.jpg



Heavy-Duty Robotic Manipulator Relies on FPGAs to Decommission Nuclear Reactors

by Xilinx Employee ‎08-18-2014 04:21 PM - edited ‎04-24-2015 01:14 PM (106,852 Views)


By Dave Wilson, Academic Marketing Director, National Instruments


Look no further than the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster of 2011 to see the importance of developing equipment to help with the decommissioning of nuclear facilities and the decontamination of waste. Such equipment must operate in the presence of high radiation, heat, humiditiy, caustic or acidic fumes, and limited visibility. Currently available robotic manipulators are inadequate due to limitations in radiation tolerance, dexterity, working range and payload. Enter the ModuMan 100 remote manipulator from James Fisher Nuclear, a robotic arm with six degrees of freedom, a 2.3m reach with 5mm accuracy, and a payload capacity of 100kg (220 lbs) at full stretch. The ModuMan 100 employs hydraulic actuators for the power joints and can be deployed through a standard nuclear industry 300mm penetration port or on a carrier system.



ModuMan 100.jpg




By Dave Wilson, Academic Marketing Director, National Instruments


Phlebotomists draw blood in the US approximately 1.4 billion times per year. It’s the most ubiquitous medical clinical procedure performed and more of them will be performed each year as the Boomer generation ages. First-stick accuracy depends on the patient’s physiology and the practitioner’s experience. Human accuracy is estimated at approximately 50%. That’s not a great number, especially if you’re one of the people with hard-to-find veins.


VascuLogic, a medical device start-up and research lab based in New Jersey, has developed the VenousPro, a robotic phlebotomist that improves the accuracy and safety of the venipuncture procedure by autonomously performing blood draws and other IV procedures in less than two minutes with close to 100% first-stick accuracy. VenousPro operates by imaging and mapping in real time the 3D spatial coordinates of peripheral forearm veins to robotically direct a needle into the designated vein.


VenousPro Robotic Phlebotomist.jpg


FPGA-based NI RIO PXI cards supply the real-time HIL muscle to test 15 megaWatt wind turbines

by Xilinx Employee ‎08-14-2014 03:38 PM - edited ‎04-24-2015 01:16 PM (47,454 Views)


By Dave Wilson, Academic Marketing Director, National Instruments


Wind turbines are getting much bigger and sitting higher and higher above the ground to provide clearance for the rotor blades. It’s much better to test the turbine generators before mounting them 120m (the length of one American football field!) above the ground. The DOE awarded Clemson University Restoration Institute (CURI) the largest DOE grant ever issued to build the world’s most powerful mechanical test facility for wind turbine nacelles with generating capacities to 15 megaWatts, which is three times larger than the largest nacelles in use today. This facility supports the DOE’s objective of using wind power to provide 20% of the electricity generated in the US (currently 25,000 teraWatt-hours generated annually) by 2030.



 Clemson Turbine Tester.jpg



The DOE issued a separate grant to provide a 15-megaWatt grid simulator in what is now the Duke Energy Electrical Grid Research Innovation and Development (eGRID) center. With the addition of this 15 megaWatt eGRID, companies can test both the mechanical and electrical characteristics of hardware prototypes for any energy resource at utility scale in a controlled and calibrated environment before deploying these resources on an actual electrical grid.


Clemson researchers used National Instruments (NI) FPGA-based hardware programmed with LabVIEW system design software and the LabVIEW FPGA module to create a system capable of HIL (hardware in the loop) control. The FPGAs’ deterministic nature and the LabVIEW Real-Time module allow for a flexible and reliable system for data acquisition, communication, and control.


By Dave Wilson, Academic Marketing Director, National Instruments



Integrating renewable energy generation technologies with the existing power grid presents many tough challenges. NREL, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, is addressing these challenges through numerous individual experiments conducted in several laboratories covering solar and wind power-generation systems, grid planning and operations, energy storage, building technologies, fuel cells, and advanced vehicles. NREL is conducting these experiments in its Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF), a 182,500 ft2 testing facility in Golden, Colorado. NREL researchers needed an easily reconfigured power-monitoring solution that provides real-time data from the experiments. Two of the unique requirements for this facility included megawatt-scale hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) simulations and petascale computing. Live analysis of complex energy experiments demanded high-speed and high-resolution data.


The facility has two ac and two dc ring buses connecting multiple energy sources across the laboratories for plug and play testing at grid scale levels and researchers needed a power monitor they could configure for individual multiphase AC and DC measurements. They also needed a configurable power meter that mimics multiple circuit breakers while analyzing power characteristics such as real power, reactive power, and energy. The power monitor also had to communicate to various third-party HMIs (human-machine interfaces) and programmable logic controllers (PLCs). There were no off-the-shelf solutions available to meet these requirements so National Instruments (NI) Alliance Partner Optimation was hired to develop such a device for the ESIF.



Optimation NREL Monitoring System 2.jpg


Optimation provided software images for the more than 70 NI CompactRIO Rugged and Reconfigurable Control and Monitoring Units installed within electrical panels throughout the ESIF. Optimation’s overall solution monitors electrical conditioning components between the ESIF’s power sources and the laboratory power connections. As a result, any DUT (device under test) or equipment used for testing in the lab is monitored by an NI CompactRIO. Voltage transformers bring experimental voltage levels into a range compatible with the NI equipment, protecting it from excess voltage. The NI CompactRIO devices are distributed throughout the ESIF and acquire GPS-synchronized voltages and currents—up to 1000V and 1600A.



By Dave Wilson, Academic Marketing Director, National Instruments



Demand for electricity is increasing at a rate of 5% per year worldwide, which creates a pressing need for fusion energy generation. Annual global expenditure on fusion energy R&D is about £2 billion (about $3.4 billion), and any serious scientific effort requires a tokamak for fusion research. Tokamak Solutions develops small spherical tokamaks used as neutron sources and as plasma research instruments in 300 plasma research centers around the world.


ITER is an international nuclear fusion research and engineering megaproject that is currently building the world's largest experimental tokamak nuclear fusion reactor in the south of France. It will cost about $15 billion. Small tokamak research reactors cost only a few million dollars. (Tokamaks are not devices recently legalized in Colorado and Washington State. Tokamak is a Russian acronym for "toroidal chamber with axial magnetic field.”)


A tokamak uses magnetic fields to confine a hydrogen plasma into the shape of a torus. This is accomplished by combining a toroidal field, which orbits the vertical axis of the torus, and a poloidal field, which encircles the central axis of the torus. Confining plasma with magnetic fields is necessary as plasmas can reach temperatures of millions of degrees. That means the plasma can’t touch anything physical.


Tokamak Solutions’ ST25 uses eight 1-farad capacitors switched by IGBTs (insulated-gate bipolar transistors) to provide the kiloampere current needed to produce a toroidal confinement field of 0.2 teslas. The poloidal field coils and hydrogen-injection solenoid coils are supplied by separate high-voltage capacitor banks. The injection solenoid squirts hydrogen from a piezoelectric valve into the toroidal field at 10 Hz, precisely synchronized with the electrical discharges from the capacitor banks driving the containment coils. The plasma is ionized and sustained with 2.45GHz microwaves generated by a 3 kW magnetron. The system induces a ten to 20 kA plasma current.



Tokamak Solutions ST25 Reactor.jpg




NI (National Instruments) presented its annual Engineering Impact Awards last night. Of the 14 finalists in 7 categories, twelve of the entries used NI’s LabVIEW FPGA for real-time control and signal processing. The diversity of the applications and the magnitude of the problems tackled was jawdropping—please excuse my hyperbole but it’s merited in this case.


Amelia Dalton over at EEJournal interviewed Jim Beneke, Avnet’s VP of Global Marketing, about the upcoming X-Fest event series taking place in about 40 cities around the globe. If you’re sitting on the fence about attending, then maybe Jim and Amelia can help you make the right decision—which of course it to avail yourself of this free, convenient technical training for an extra boost against the competition.


Here’s the podcast. The X-Fest interview takes place in the first five minutes. (Note: the Podcast is silent for the first 10 seconds.):





X-Fest training courses include:


Design Essentials


  • Power and thermal Design
  • UltraScale Memory Interfaces
  • Zynq-7000 All Programmable SoC Boot and Configuration Procedures
  • Zynq-7000 All Programmable SoC Modules


Techniques & Applications


  • High-Speed Digital Signal Processing in UltraScale FPGAs
  • Partial Reconfiguration in Zynq-7000 All Programmable SoCs
  • Using Operating Systems with Zynq-7000 All Programmable SoCs
  • Zynq-7000 All Programmable SoCs for Intelligent Drives


Zynq All Programmable SoCs and the IoT (Internet of Things)


  • Adding Smarter Vision to your Product with Zynq-7000 All Programmable SoCs
  • Adding Wireless Connectivity to Zynq-7000 All Programmable SoC Systems
  • Building Blocks for Enhancing User Interfaces
  • Making the IoT Smarter



Register here.



X-fest logo.png

The Genesis of the Zynq-based Red Pitaya Open Instrumentation Platform

by Xilinx Employee ‎06-19-2014 03:48 PM - edited ‎04-24-2015 01:18 PM (54,570 Views)

Red Pitaya Logo.pngRok Uršič is the founder and CEO of Instrumentation Technologies, a world leader in cutting-edge instrumentation primarily for the particle-accelerator beam diagnostics market. He started the company in 1998. The design team at Instrumentation Technologies now builds very sophisticated instrumentation for particle accelerators. In certain ways, it’s a very nice market and the company has become quite successful in this field but it’s a niche and Uršič was looking to expand his company and take his design team into new, broader fields. They saw an opportunity when the technology advanced to the level of the Zynq SoC, which allowed them to offer a platform product with most of the key features of the sophisticated instruments they were already building for particle accelerators, but with new capabilities applicable to much broader markets.


That was the motivation for the Red Pitaya.


Some dramatic video showing 30x speedup for 2Dgraphics on Xilinx Zynq SoC using Xylon LogicBRICKS IP

by Xilinx Employee ‎06-16-2014 01:27 PM - edited ‎04-24-2015 01:18 PM (45,895 Views)

Many displays on instruments and other industrial equipment can benefit from a 2D speedup. The Xylon LogicBRICKS IP core collection includes a Bit Blt accelerator (called the Xylon LogiBITBLT) for 2D graphics. It delivers roughly 30x display update acceleration while reducing the Zynq SoC’s ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore CPU usage by approximately 20x.


About the Author
  • Be sure to join the Xilinx LinkedIn group to get an update for every new Xcell Daily post! ******************** Steve Leibson is the Director of Strategic Marketing and Business Planning at Xilinx. He started as a system design engineer at HP in the early days of desktop computing, then switched to EDA at Cadnetix, and subsequently became a technical editor for EDN Magazine. He's served as Editor in Chief of EDN Magazine, Embedded Developers Journal, and Microprocessor Report. He has extensive experience in computing, microprocessors, microcontrollers, embedded systems design, design IP, EDA, and programmable logic.