Hardware

Prototyping

The Art of Electronics

Testing hardware is ever evolving. When we first started in the prototyping game, most of our electronics were fully custom and “The Art of Electronics” (see excellent book by Horowitz and Hill) was our bread and butter.

Today numerous platforms exist to design and implement fully configurable testing hardware. One of our most common tools is the National Instruments cRIO, which enables fully customizable IO (we have yet to find a sensor we can’t interface to), a solid 1ms loop time on Linux-based real time system, and a 40MHz FPGA if 1ms is not sufficient.

We are not tied to the National Instruments system – we love playing with all hardware – but often find that the versatility of LabVIEW RT and the NI cRIO creates the ideal platform for prototyping. How many other systems are out there where you can write a custom control system, interface to 50+ sensors, put some FPGA code in the mix, have a full UI and file writing, and develop all of this in around one to two weeks? 

See below for some example components that enable rapid prototyping for versatile IO and control. Just talk to us if you have any questions about your  solution. We can often supply our hardware stock to projects at little cost, saving you a pricey purchase for equipment you may only be using once.

We also enjoy building fully custom electronics. The disk on the right was designed for >800MHz data acquisition on a motor spinning at 10,000+ RPM. That was fun!

A reliable backbone

The National Instruments cRIO system is often our most reliable backbone. Based on a Linux RT system running LabVIEW, a configurable FPGA, and fully configurable IO, there are few limits to custom data capture and real-time control. Direct interfaces to RS232, RS485 and EtherCAT are built into the chassis.

 

For the little extras

Adding another 8 IO cards via real-time capable EtherCAT is simple – NI 9144.

 

Safety first

Creating 24V DC safety circuitry to make sure you equipment is protected. Switch solenoids, circuit breakers … with the NI 9472.

Safety okay?

Reliably monitor your 24V DC safety circuits, or the health of any other connected equipment using the NI 9421.

Building 24bit Bridges

Custom strain gauges (we once made some awesome gauges from liquid metal Galinstan) or commercial load cell? Simultaneous 50kS/s and 24bit A/D should do the job (NI 9237). We can support MANY channels after a previous client had a bit of a strain gauge fest.

The analog age

Analog still exists. While most communication to servo drives etc is via digital interfaces (EtherCAT, Ethernet IP, CANBUS …), some entry level motor drives still feature analog I/O. The NI 9263 has come in handy many a time, 8 channels, 16 bit and super reliable.

 

Reading analog

Many standard sensors feature simple ±10V (or similar) outputs. The NI 9205 supports 16 differential or 32 single ended channels, plenty of scope for most sensing requirements.

What about current?

Industrial sensors commonly feature 4…20mA outputs. The NI 9203 is fast, reliable and supports 8 channels.

Sensors ...

We have played with pretty much any sensor that is out there. IMUs, pressure, force, displacement, proximity, fluid flow, temperature … We can support writing custom interfaces such as RS232 / RS485 / I2C to more specialist sensors such as IMUs.

Start to Finish

Prototyping is what we are good at – from start to finish. We design, build and test. We get enormous satisfaction when (not if!) we get things working.

Design

The design often starts on a blank piece of paper - from scratch. No template, no background, often no more than a vague idea. We love taking rough ideas & concepts to full validation.

Hardware

Quality prototyping and testing is almost never cheap. We know how to achieve the most cost effective solution, and can contribute hardware from our growing stockpile to keep costs at bay.

Software

Rapid prototyping is as much about software as hardware. Prototyping software requires a very special coder mindset and tons of creativity. That's where we excel.

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