A turnkey Material Testing solution - VJ Tech

Background

VJ Tech supply high quality soil/rock, concrete/cement and asphalt/aggregate test instruments for the civil engineering industry. Based in Reading it has a truly global customer base which it has formed in over 20 years of trading.

Requirements

In 2010 VJ Tech investigated the possibility of using National Instruments' cRIO hardware as the control platform for their next generation of products used in material testing. After a very basic proof of concept was demonstrated by an NI system engineer, VJ Tech decided to base their next system on a cRIO platform using an FPGA to handle the data processing.

Our expertise in LabVIEW & LabVIEW FPGA lead to VJ Tech asking us to take the simple proof of concept to a completed control system which could be integrated with their existing software control package written in .NET.

Control for the system is provided by an existing test suite written in .NET. We were tasked with building an adaptive motor control system capable of handling 10 AI with sensor accuracy of 0.001 over a range of +/-10,000. The system would have to incorporate safety limits, signal conditioning and data logging all of which should be manually controlled (for development testing) and also respond to controls through a .NET assembly.

A multi axis test system setup using the DSC2000 dynamic controller

A multi axis test system setup using the DSC2000 dynamic controller

 

Results

Over a period of months we worked closely with VJ Tech to design and implement the system. The development process was not typical as a number of requirements were introduced during the development cycle. As a result we used an agile approach to the software development with an iterative design, build and test process.

In 2011 the new system has formed part of the VJ Tech product line and is now in operation across the world. The new system offered far superior control performance to their legacy products.

 

Update

We were  asked to optimise the already successful system to create a high-end version pushing the limits further, as well as introducing an adaptive PID control system which will be capable of responding to the test sample as it degrades.

In order to maximise the performance and reduce the hardware cost we have been able to design out the cRIO platform and opted for a high performance AI/O card on a standalone RTOS (Real Time Operating System). This new approach has improved control speeds by a factor of 10 as well as reduced the hardware costs. 

The new system was delivered in Q4 2013

Used in this Project

Software

LabVIEW, LabVIEW FPGA, LabVIEW Real-Time, C dll & .NET assembly

Interfaces

.NET, TCP,

Hardware

cRIO, FPGA, NI PCI AI

Skills

Project management, R&D, advanced PID tuning, system control and response, LabVIEW programming, safety critical software