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Creep Lab

Key Benefits:
  • A bespoke solution: The solution was customised to fit Imperials specific requirements and allows for complete control.
  • Global Remote Access: The system allows data to be checked remotely from anywhere in the world resulting in tests now being able to run without the reliance on the physical presence of key personnel. The critical nature of stress testing means changes in frequency need to be monitored in real-time, which can now be done with only the requirement of staff present able to turn the tests off if required.
  • Increased accuracy in data recording: Moving from a manual to an automated system has meant being able to record and measure temperature changes in far greater detail and accuracy.
  • User-Friendly: The use of NI software and hardware offers immediate familiarity and comfort to staff and students who are exposed to LabVIEW throughout their Engineering studies.

The Challenge

To develop a distributed long-term logging system for up to thirty simultaneous material creep testing experiments for industrial partners.

The system needed to be flexible enough to allow individual experiments to be setup with a variable number of sensors – time between logging points need to be varied throughout the test and the test to continue for up to several years without loss of data, even during power outages.

Austin Consultants LabVIEW Experts - Creep Lab - Imperial College London

The Solution

The solution was developed using five National Instruments FPGA based CompactRIO units, networked to a single user PC running a LabVIEW application for test setup, monitoring and data download.

The CompactRIO units were chosen for their industrial ruggedness and FPGA Hardware based determinism, which will allow the tests to continue for several years without the need to reboot a Windows-based software solution. The FPGA built into the CompactRIO allows for maximum flexibility in developing and tailoring the data acquisition system allowing it to cope with signals from sensors from the microvolt range (such as capacitance meters) to tens of volts (i.e. LVDTs).

The modular design of the CompactRIO backplane allowed for changes to be made to the data acquisition requirements as the project progressed, by simply unplugging existing cRIO modules, and plugging in alternate units.

Austin Consultants Engineers built a Real-Time FPGA based software solution which can be deployed to each CompactRIO to run independently. Each cRIO reports its current status back to the main PC software, also written in LabVIEW and presents it in a format allowing the user simple access to the Real Time data for up to thirty parallel tests to occur.

Each individual channel on the CompactRIO can be configured via the interactive Front Panel of the LabVIEW application, with visual prompts to show users where to plug in sensors on the unit.
Sensor types encompass a range from thermocouples to LVDTs, so each channel configuration has to accurately match the signal type and range associated with it.

Each test is flexible enough to allow channel reconfiguration while the test is running, thus allowing test operators to swap in new sensors if any stop running during the duration of the test.

Creep Lab User Interface

Data Management

The software allows the user to download logging data at any point during the test and allows them the ability to remote desktop in to monitor the testing progress from anywhere where they have internet access.

Expandability

The software allows for the addition of new RIO modules and CompactRIO units to expand the test and allows them to start tests running in unison over an unlimited time period.

Test Configuration Interface

The test configuration interface, designed in LabVIEW, was made to provide two levels of user experience: Administrator and User.

Administrators have access to setup, run and configure tests, as well as view the data produced and download it.

Users only have access to view data acquired and download it, without the ability to change any parameters of the test running. The LabVIEW-based Front Panel allowed Austin Consultants rapid development of clear, graphical Windows based controls and clusters of controls.

  • LabVIEW 60% 60%
  • cRIO 40% 40%
  • Consultancy 100% 100%

Austin Consultants have been a great pleasure to work with, extremely understanding with our requirements and needs, and offering support and advice with regards to NI hardware and software requirements. The final solution was over and above our original expectation and has provided us with a high precision industry leading Creep Lab remote monitoring platform that can be viewed from anywhere in the world

Dr Catrin Mair Davies

Faculty of Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Imperial College London