You are on page 1of 10

MEEN 364


Introduction to Data Acquisition using LabVIEW

I. Introduction
A system is a group of physical components assembled to perform a specific function. A
system may be electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, thermal or a combination of
any of these systems.
Information either sent to or taken from a system is usually called a signal. A signal is
any physical quantity or a piece of information that varies with time, space or any other
variables. Systems act on signals to modify and/or to produce newer signals.
Signal in


Signal out

Most of the signals encountered in the science and engineering are analog in nature. That
is the signals are functions of a continuous variable, such as time or space, and usually
take on values in a continuous range. Such signals may be processed directly by
appropriate analog systems. In such a case we say the signal has been processed in analog
Analog input signal

Analog output signal


Signals, which are defined at discrete time instants, are called discrete-time signals. By
selecting values of analog signals at discrete time instants, or in other words by sampling
the analog signals we arrive at discrete-time signals. The following figure shows the
difference between continuous and discrete-time signals.

MEEN 364

A discrete-time system is a device or algorithm that operates on discrete-time signals,

called the input or the excitation, to produce another discrete time signal called the output
or the response of the system.
Input signal

Discretetime System

Output Signal

A control system, as the name suggests is a system in which some physical quantity is
controlled by regulating an input. A control system is a combination of amplifiers,
transducers/sensors, and actuators, which collectively act on a process/system to maintain
some condition at a required value. Control system comprises of different systems and
signals as shown in the figure. Most of the control systems operate on the feedback basis,
as shown, and are called closed loop control systems.

MEEN 364

In the early days control systems were mostly analog in nature, since most of the real
world signals and systems are analog in nature. These systems were bulky, complex and
cumbersome both to design and to maintain. However with the development of digital
technology and the invention of Integrated circuits, the design of control systems became
easy and economical. Presently most control systems are microprocessor controlled,
primarily because of tremendous advancements in data handling capabilities.
Many applications also need a fast and even real-time decision-making with regard to the
control input. This requires a large amount of processing power and also high
computational speeds. The advent of Integrated chips and computers have provided a
very convenient solution to this. Since these require information to be present in the
digital form for processing, the measured or sensed signal has to be converted to a digital
form before a computer can process it. This necessitates the use of Analog to Digital
converters (ADCs). An ADC samples the analog signal at a specified rate and converts it
into digital information. This can be processed by the computer.
Analog signal
(From sensors)


Digital signal


The result of the above processing is still going to be in the digital form and hence
unsuitable unless we convert it back to analog form. The Digital to Analog Converters
(DACs) perform this function. They interpolate the digital information to give an analog
signal. This actuating signal can be given as a control input to the system under interest.





MEEN 364
Hence the use of ADCs and DACs can provide the advantage of using the processing
power of computers and ICs on real world systems which are mostly analog in nature.
The control system architecture can therefore be schematically represented as below

ADCs and DACs present on the Data Acquisition board can be used for the purpose of
interfacing the analog domain with the digital domain. The computers in MEEN364 lab
are equipped with National Instruments PCI6024 Data Acquisition Boards. These
boards are designed to perform A/D and D/A conversion using 12-bit resolution. It has 8
differential analog input channels and two 12-bit analog output channels. A channel is a
term used to mean either an input or an output line. The input to the DAQ board is an
analog signal and so is the output. The process of collecting data using the analog input
channels is called Analog Input, and the process of getting signal out is called Analog
Ouput. Both these tasks can be performed using LabVIEW.
II. Analog Input Using LabVIEW
Finding the Data Acquisition VIs in LabVIEW
The FunctionsData Acquisition palette contains six subpalettes that contain the different
classes of DAQ VIs. The DAQ VIs are classified as follows:
Analog Input VIs
Analog Output VIs
Digital I/O VIs
Counter VIs
Calibration and Configuration VIs

MEEN 364
Signal Conditioning VIs
Figure 5-1 shows an example of a DAQ subpalette that contains all of the available levels
of DAQ VIs.

VI Parameter Conventions
In each LabVIEW DAQ VI front panel or Context Help window, the appearance of the
control and indicator labels denotes the importance of that parameter. Control and
indicator names shown in bold are required and must be wired to a node on the block
diagram for your application to run. Parameter names that appear in plain text are
optional and are not necessary for your program to run. You rarely need to use the
parameters with labels in square brackets ([ ]). Remember that these conventions apply
only to the information in the Context Help window and on the front panel. Default input
values appear in parentheses to the right of the parameter names. Figure 5-3 illustrates
these Context Help window parameter conventions for the AI Read One Scan VI. As the
window text for this VI indicates, you must wire the device (if you are not using channel
names), channels, error in, and iteration input parameters and the waveform data and
error out output parameters. To pass error information from one VI to another, connect
the error out cluster of the current VI to the error in cluster of the next VI. The
coupling &input config, input limits, output units, and number of AMUX boards
input parameters are optional.

MEEN 364

The Waveform Control

LabVIEW represents a waveform with the waveform control parameter by default. A 1D
array of waveform controls represents multiple waveforms. The VIs, functions, and front
panel objects you use to build VIs that acquire, analyze, and display analog
measurements accept or return waveform data by default. The waveform control contains
data associated with a single waveform, including data values and timing information.
The waveform control passes the waveform components to the VIs and functions you use
to build measurement applications. Use the waveform VIs and functions to extract and
edit the components of the waveform.
Waveform Control Components
The waveform control is a special cluster of components that includes time-domain,
uniformly sampled waveform information only. Use the waveform functions to access
and manipulate individual components.
Start Time (t0 )
The start time is the start time of the first point in the waveform. Use the start time to
synchronize plots on a multi-plot waveform graph or to determine delays between
waveforms. This value is not used by the Analog Output VIs.
Delta t (dt)
Delta t is the time between successive data points in the waveform. This value is not used
by the Analog Output VIs.
Waveform Data (Y)
The waveform data is a 1D array of double-precision numbers that represents the
waveform. Generally, the number of data values in the array corresponds directly to the
number of scans taken from a data acquisition device. Refer to the Using the Waveform
Control section for more information about acquiring and generating waveform data.

MEEN 364
Using the Waveform Control
There are a number of LabVIEW VIs and primitives that accept, operate on, and/or return
waveforms. In addition, you can connect the waveform control wires directly to many
LabVIEW controls, including the graph, chart, numeric, and numeric array controls.
The block diagram in Figure 5-5 acquires a waveform from a channel on a data
acquisition device, sends it through a Butterworth filter, and plots the resulting waveform
on a graph.

The AI Acquire Waveform VI takes a number of samples from a channel at a specified

scan rate at a particular time. The VI returns a waveform. The probe displays the
components of the waveform, which includes the time the acquisition, began (t0), the
time between successive data points (dt), and the data of a waveform acquired with each
scan (Y). The Waveform FIR Filter VI accepts the array of waveforms and automatically
filters the data (Y) of each waveform. The waveform graph then plots and displays the
waveform. The waveform control can also be used with single point acquisitions as
shown in Figure 5-6. The AI Sample Channel VI takes a single sample from a channel
and returns a single-point waveform. The waveform contains the value read from the
channel and the time the channel was read. The chart and the temperature controls accept
the waveform and display its data. The Get Waveform Components function is used to
extract the start time from the waveform.

MEEN 364

Extracting Waveform Components

Use the Get Waveform Components function to extract and manipulate the components
of a waveform you generate. The VI in Figure 5-8 uses the Get Waveform Components
function to extract the waveform data. The Negate function negates the waveform data
and plots the results to a graph.

Waveform Data on the Front Panel

On the front panel, use the Waveform control, available on the ControlsI/O palette, or a
Waveform Graph, available on the ControlsGraph palette, to represent waveform data.
Use the Waveform control to manipulate the t0, dt, and Y components of the waveform
or display those components as an indicator. Refer to the Waveform Control Components
section for more information about each component. When you wire a waveform to a
graph, the t0 component is the initial value on the x-axis. The number of scans acquired
and the dt component determine the subsequent values on the x-axis. The data elements
in the Y component comprise the points on the plot of the graph. If you want to let a user

MEEN 364
control a certain component, such as the dt component, create a front panel control and
wire it to the appropriate component in the Build Waveform function.

Channel Number Addressing

You can address your channels by channel numbers in the channels parameter. The
channels can be an array of strings or a scalar string control. If you have a channels array,
you can use one channel entry per array element, specify the entire list in a single
element, or use any combination of these two methods. For instance, if your channels are
0, 1, and 2, you can specify a list of channels in a single element by separating the
individual channels by commasfor example, 0, 1, 2. Or you can specify the range by
separating the first and last channels with a colonfor example, 0:2.
Limit Settings
Limit settings are the maximum and minimum values of the analog signal(s) you are
measuring or generating. The pair of limit setting values can be unique for each analog
input or output channel. For analog input applications, the limit setting values must be
within the range for the device. Each pair of limit setting values forms a cluster. Analog
output limits have a third member, the reference source. For simplicity, LabVIEW refers
to limit settings as a pair of values. LabVIEW uses an array of these clusters to assign
limits to the channels in your channel string array.

MEEN 364
The number of represent an analog signal determines the resolution of the ADC. You can
compare the resolution on a DAQ device to the marks on a ruler. The more marks you
have, the more precise your measurements. Similarly, the higher the resolution, the
higher the number of divisions into which your system can break down the ADC range,
and therefore, the smaller the detectable change. A 3-bit ADC divides the range into 8
divisions. A binary or digital code between 000 and 111 represents each division. The
ADC translates each measurement of the analog signal to one of the digital divisions.
Figure 6-4 shows a sine wave digital image as obtained by a 3-bit ADC. Clearly, the
digital signal does not represent the original signal adequately, because the converter has
too few digital divisions to represent the varying voltages of the analog signal. By
increasing the resolution to 16 bits, however, the ADCs number of divisions increases
from 8 to 65,536 (2 ^16). The ADC now can obtain an extremely accurate representation
of the analog signal.

Device Range
Range refers to the minimum and maximum analog signal levels that the ADC can
digitize. Many DAQ devices feature selectable ranges, so you can match the ADC range
to that of the signal to take best advantage of the available resolution.
Signal Limit Settings
Limit settings are the maximum and minimum values of the signal you are measuring. A
more precise limit setting allows the ADC to use more digital divisions to represent the
signal. Using a 3-bit ADC and a device range setting of 0.00 to 10.00 V, With a
limitsettingof0 to 10 V, theADC uses only four of the eight divisions in the conversion.
But using a limit setting of 0 to 5 V, the ADC now has access to all eight digital
divisions. This makes the digital representation of the signal more accurate.