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On-premises and cloud tools boost design through manufacturing

2018-05-12

核心提示:Companies have recently released a variety of software toolsincluding new products and new releases of existing products
 Companies have recently released a variety of software tools—including new products and new releases of existing products—for design, simulation, test, and manufacturing. Their initiatives represent new functionality as well as performance improvements. Included in the new offerings are tools that not only enhance design through test capabilities to speed time to market but also analytics capabilities that help users analyze and make the most of the data they collect along the way. Further, the tools support collaboration among engineers as well as data management and remote monitoring and control via on-premises or cloud-based implementations. And some tools are smoothing the integration of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality with engineering and manufacturing tasks.

A recent software initiative from National Instruments is a new release of LabVIEW NXG, the next generation of LabVIEW engineering system design software, originally released last May at NIWeek along with LabVIEW 2017. The new version, introduced in January, adds key functionality and reinvents longstanding benefits, particularly for engineers developing, deploying, and managing automated test and measurement systems. This release introduces support for building web-based user interfaces (UIs) that can be deployed to any web browser—PC, tablet, or phone—with no plug-ins or installers.

David Hall, a principal product marketing manager at NI, said a theme of the new version is “the convergence of accelerating technologies,” evidenced in the exponential growth CPU cycle processing capabilities. The new software, he said, takes advantage of more transistors per CPU, more ADC conversion efficiencies, faster Internet speeds, and more FPGA logic cells.

“The challenges are best solved through software,” he said. “We can provide customers with a software platform that takes advantage of processor and ADC capabilities, and customers can keep pace by swapping out their PXI controllers every two years or so.”

LabVIEW NXG 2.0 breaks down the process of creating an ATE system in 10 discrete steps, from starting a project through DUT requirements, system procurement, system assembly, software configuration, interactive measurements, automated measurements, and test sequencing, and then on to system deployment and maintenance. LabVIEW NXG is particularly helpful in reducing test-system setup and configuration time, increasing test-software collaboration, and putting the right test data in front of the right people, Hall said, adding that LabVIEW NXG assists with hardware configuration, driver identification (including third-party drivers), and setup validation.

LabVIEW NXG offers a live view that supports automatic discovery of hardware connected to the system controller. A design view (Figure 1) supports offline or simulated system documentation and configuration, and a consolidated configuration pane lets users quickly launch a soft front panel, guides hardware and driver search, and offers access to manuals, specs, and pinouts.

Figure 1. LabVIEW NXG design view, supporting offline or simulated system documentation and configuration 
Courtesy of National Instruments

LabVIEW NXG also supports remote configuration, operation, management, real-time monitoring, and analytics without requiring the user to have detailed knowledge of html, which is not in the wheelhouse of typical engineers, Hall said. LabVIEW NXG Web Module leverages off-the-shelf technologies such as CSS and JavaScript to let users design UIs using drag-and-drop engineering widgets. Secure and scalable industry-standard technologies such as HTTP, AMQP, and WebSocket orchestrate communications.

The LabVIEW NXG Web Module lets users create engineering UIs, intuitively move data across applications, and efficiently share UIs with all stakeholders, he said. Engineers who are familiar with the technologies can modify the embedded capabilities. Users can efficiently host their UIs in the cloud or on-premises using the web server included with LabVIEW NXG or any third-party mechanism.

Finally, Hall said LabVIEW NXG protects your investment through code migration, coexistence, and code interoperability. A built-in utility can convert code from LabVIEW 2014 and later for use in LabVIEW NXG. Users can develop in both LabVIEW 2017 and LabVIEW NXG to complement existing applications. And users can call a VI from LabVIEW 8.0 or later to provide functionality not yet available in LabVIEW NXG.

Hall emphasized that no one is forced to migrate to LabVIEW NXP. NI is pursuing an extremely cautious approach to making engineers successful by rolling out NXG deliberately and letting users migrate when it makes sense for them, he said. He quoted Brian Hoover, test software architect at Samsung, as saying, “By building test systems using LabVIEW and LabVIEW NXG, I can work with both versions and take advantage of the unique strengths of each. With this next phase of LabVIEW NXG, I can integrate new ways to visualize data, either on the desktop with vector-based UI graphics or in the browser for secure hosting, into my existing LabVIEW applications to simplify reporting test results.”

Evolving since 1991

Marvin Test Solutions Inc. last year introduced a new version of its ATEasy software development environment and integrated, customizable test executive, which the company describes as an evolutionary test software suite, first released in 1991. The latest version, ATEasy 10 (Figure 2), delivers faster run-times (up to 10x faster in benchmarked tests), new integrated user-collaboration tools such as ATEasy Merge, .Net controls support, the ability to embed ATEasy run-time executables, a test-log template that provides the ability to analyze test results, and backward compatibility with all previous versions.

Figure 2. ATEasy software development environment and integrated, customizable test executive
Courtesy of Marvin Test Solutions

“ATEasy is our flagship software product, and our goal from the beginning has been to make continuous improvements to enhance the product and allow users to be more efficient and productive without rewriting and modifying their existing code,” said Ron Yazma, VP of software engineering for Marvin Test Solutions and the architect of ATEasy. “With this version, we have improved our run-time performance and added many collaboration features that were requested by our customers that have standardized their test development on ATEasy. This will help them to meet their most demanding test challenges.”

ATEasy 10 debuted last October. “Our installed base has been very enthusiastic about ATEasy 10,” said Yazma. “They particularly like its collaboration features, the faster run-time, its expanded .Net support, and the cybersecurity additions, which support the encryption of ATEasy programs, modules, and executables. We are also seeing a lot of interest from new users—its longevity, comprehensive test development and integrated test executive environment, and open architecture are all features that potential users are looking for in an ATE software package for both standalone and enterprise applications.”

ATEasy is the only commercially-available test development/test executive software with an integrated HAL (hardware abstraction layer) and full simulation capabilities, according to Yazma. “We have several levels of instrument and interface abstraction,” he explained. “For example, if one is using a GPIB-interface-controlled instrument from Keysight or NI, the code will not have to be changed. Similarly, instrument drivers that support multiple interface types (for example, USB, GPIB, RS-232) can be written without using a specific type of interface API, by employing ATEasy’s IO Table abstraction implementation.”

He continued, “On a higher level, ATEasy’s instrument drivers are structured such that the command interface is separate from the driver implementation, allowing one to replace an instrument driver without rewriting the program, since generic statements such as ‘DMM Set Function VDC, DMM Measure (dResult)’ are employed. These command statements are agnostic to the actual DMM being used.”

Marvin Test Solutions is active in military/aerospace test, where ATEasy finds extensive use, as outlined in the article. In addition, it finds use in hundreds of other applications. “Besides its use in military and commercial aerospace applications, ATEasy, with the addition of our semiconductor software tools, is being used to test mixed-signal devices, MEMS devices, and system-on-chip devices,” Yazma said. “With the open architecture of ATEasy and the ability to add third-party tools, ATEasy can be adapted for a wide range of markets and applications. Internally we have also implemented several products using ATEasy as the core platform. For example, our calibration executive CalEasy was implemented using ATEasy.”

Modeling and simulation

For its part, MathWorks in March debuted Release 2018a (R2018a) of its software. The new release adds a range of new capabilities in MATLAB and Simulink and also includes two new products:

  • Predictive Maintenance Toolbox, for designing and testing condition-monitoring and predictive-maintenance algorithms, and
  • Vehicle Dynamics Blockset, for modeling and simulating vehicle dynamics in a virtual 3D environment.

In addition to new features in MATLAB and Simulink and the two new products, the new release also includes updates and bug fixes to 94 other products.

MATLAB updates include live functions, documentation authoring, debugging, and interactive controls for embedding sliders and drop-down menus in the Live Editor as well as an app (UI) testing framework, C++ MEX interface, custom tab completion, and function assistants for advanced software development. And MATLAB Online now offers hardware connectivity for communicating with USB webcams.

The company listed several MATLAB product-family updates:

  • Econometrics Toolbox now offers an Econometric Modeler app for performing time series analysis, specification testing, modeling, and diagnostics.
  • Image Processing Toolbox includes 3-D image processing and volume visualization.
  • Partial Differential Equation Toolbox supports structural dynamic analysis to find natural frequencies, mode shapes, and transient response.
  • Optimization Toolbox offers branching methods for solving mixed-integer linear problems faster.

Simulink updates include predictive quick insert to connect a recommended block to an existing block in a model. In addition, the Simulation Pacing feature runs simulations at wall-clock speed or other specified pace for improved visualization. And Simulation Data Inspector in the Live Editor supports directly adding, viewing, and editing plots.

In addition, Simulink 3D Animation offers collision detection for sensing collisions of virtual world objects using point clouds, raytracing, and primitive geometries. Simscape adds a moist-air domain and block library to model HVAC and environmental control systems. And a partitioning local solver increases real-time simulation speed.

The company emphasized that R2018a includes new features for deep-learning, data-analytics, automotive, signal-processing and communications, and verification-and-validation applications as well as code-generation enhancements.

For example, for data analytics, in addition to the new Predictive Maintenance Toolbox, the new release includes Statistics and Machine Learning Toolbox, which supports high-density data visualization with scatter plots in the Classification Learner app. And Text Analytics Toolbox offers multiword phrase extraction and counting, HTML text extraction, and detection of sentences, email addresses, and URLs.

And the new release offers enhanced tools for automotive applications in addition to the new Vehicle Dynamics Blockset product. For instance, Automated Driving System Toolbox offers the Driving Scenario Designer app for interactively defining actors and driving scenarios to test control and sensor-fusion algorithms. Model Predictive Control Toolbox offers ADAS blocks for designing, simulating, and implementing adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping algorithms. Vehicle Network Toolbox provides CAN FD protocol support in Simulink and XCP over Ethernet to communicate with ECUs from MATLAB or Simulink. And Model-Based Calibration Toolbox includes Powertrain Blockset integration for using measured data to calibrate and generate tables for Powertrain Blockset mapped engines.

For signal processing and communications, Signal Processing Toolbox offers the Signal Analyzer app for processing multiple signals and extracting regions of interest from signals. LTE System Toolbox includes NB-IoT support to model the narrowband Internet of Things transport and physical downlink shared channel. RF Blockset offers a power-amplifier model for capturing nonlinearity and memory effects based on input/output device characteristics. Wavelet Toolbox supports continuous and discrete wavelet transform filter banks. And Robotics System Toolbox supports lidar-based SLAM for localizing robots and map environments using lidar sensors.

Integrated workflow products

Keysight Technologies has been focusing on the integration of design, test, measurement, and analysis with its new PathWave, an integrated set of software products introduced in January for the entire design, test, and verification workflow. The company said the software platform provides customers with flexible and immediate access to the design and test tools they need, when they need them, adding that the interoperability of the design and test tools and advanced data-management capabilities speeds the product development cycle, eliminating the need to re-create individual measurements and test plans at each discrete stage of the process.

“Most product-development lifecycles are disconnected, presenting design and test challenges at every stage, which slows innovation and product introductions,” said Jessy Cavazos, industry director, Test & Measurement, Frost & Sullivan.1 “As a leader in design and test, Keysight is applying their unique expertise to unify the design and test workflow throughout the product lifecycle with a consistent user experience and common data formats that accelerate innovation and allow customers to deliver products with speed and quality.”

“We all recognize the many societal benefits offered by technology, from cloud computing, big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, to augmented reality and various types of mobile platforms,” added Jay Alexander, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Keysight. “But gaining the full value of these new technologies requires deep expertise across the whole design and test workflow, plus the measurement expertise to effectively implement them. Keysight is committed to continuously complementing emerging technologies with solutions that help our customers overcome barriers to innovation and establish efficient workflow processes.”

Keysight said PathWave products are connected, interoperable, and rapidly reconfigurable, delivering the industry’s most efficient workflow that enables customers to

  • allocate the right computing resources where and when needed,
  • evaluate collected data to optimize workflow,
  • ensure new hardware and software works with existing hardware to maximize ROI, predict bottlenecks and rapidly correct to ensure efficient workflow process,
  • and review project status from anywhere to maintain completion commitments.

Specific products within PathWave include PathWave FPGA, a system-level FPGA development environment that allows customers to create, deploy, and simulate their custom hardware-acceleration directly into instruments (Figure 3). In addition, PathWave Test provides an environment to launch a portfolio of measurement, test-automation, and data-management tools. Finally, PathWave Analytics comes with built-in predictive algorithms to identify fixture and equipment failures before they occur, offering a united global view incorporating multiple data sources to get real-time feedback.

Figure 3. PathWave FPGA system-level FPGA development environment
Courtesy of Keysight Technologies

In the runup to IPC Apex Expo Feb. 27 through March 1 in San Diego, Keysight product manager Ban-Kwan Wong elaborated on PathWave Analytics. He described PathWave Analytics as “…an Industry 4.0-ready electronics manufacturing data-analytics solution that performs advanced analytics using manufacturing process, test, and equipment data to drive manufacturing improvements and efficiencies.”2 He said that PathWave Analytics is platform-agnostic and can be integrated into any existing equipment or database with minimal changes, adding that the database can be configured on premises or in the cloud, giving you the flexibility to scale as your business grows.

And in March, Keysight announced its Test Asset Optimization Services, of which PathWave Asset Advisor software is an integral part. The company described Test Asset Optimization Services as industry’s first integrated solution that measures—in real-time—asset true utilization and health, eliminating the need for personnel to manually record when equipment is in use. It tracks and controls test assets, monitors utilization and health of selected assets, and allows loan pool capabilities for targeted assets.

The cloud-hosted PathWave Asset Advisor software, available in the Amazon Web Service (AWS) cloud, offers customers fast and up-to-date functionality as well as reliable and secure web access to manage their assets, the company said. As a cloud-hosted solution, it eliminates the time and costs associated with IT network administration and data-storage overhead. An on-premises version resides on a server behind a company’s firewall.

Keysight said Analog Devices Inc. has piloted PathWave Asset Advisor. True utilization data enabled ADI to identify an under-utilized asset that it traded in to purchase a new instrument. In addition, real-time health data provided by PathWave prevented an instrument malfunction.

“We were impressed how quickly ADI was able to make decisions and take action once they had the data from PathWave Asset Advisor,” said Eric Taylor, vice president, Managed Services Division, Keysight Technologies, in a press release. “We live in a fast-paced world, and decisions need to be made quickly and accurately. Following a three-step disciplined process of tracking, monitoring utilization and health, and sharing assets across teams can dramatically reduce capital and operating expenses, and improve return on test investment.”

From thermal design to manufacturing

Other companies providing software have been making news recently as well, in areas ranging from thermal design to manufacturing execution. For example, Altair, developer of the HyperWorks CAE software suite, has acquired TES International’s technology, intellectual property, and other assets. TES was founded in 1994 and provides cross-industry software solutions for thermal design and packaging, general heat transfer, stress and vibration analysis, and computational fluid dynamics (CFD). Its main CFD software, ElectroFlo, is an electronics cooling package designed for high power-density applications.

Altair described ElectroFlo as an efficient thermal-analysis software tool that combines coupled thermal/electrical analysis with a graphical interface. It incorporates coupled thermal/electrical algorithms, improving analysis results accuracy for systems containing wires and traces. The software can simulate electronics ranging from components and printed-circuit boards to full systems and is particularly useful for designing high-current applications, the company said.

“As an advanced electronics thermal-management software package, ElectroFlo is fundamentally based on a multiphysics and multidiscipline solution methodology,” said Dr. Ben Zandi, founder and former chairman and CTO at TES International and now VP of software development for thermal solutions at Altair.3 He commented that combining ElectroFlo with Altair’s AcuSolve can provide thermal solutions for applications with complex flow interactions, adding that Altair’s EMC and EDA technologies will provide a broad set of capabilities for electronic applications.

Addressing manufacturing, Aegis Software, a provider of manufacturing execution system (MES) software, announced at Apex new quality-management capabilities that complement its FactoryLogix existing incoming- and in-process quality-assurance capabilities to deliver administrative quality-management capabilities. The company said a total solution covering Corrective Action and Preventive Action (CAPA), Material Review Board (MRB), and Failure Reporting, Analysis, and Corrective Action System (FRACAS) is a complement to the shop-floor nonconformance and incoming inspection quality components already inherent in FactoryLogix. And in related news, Aegis announced a partnership with Seica Italy, a global supplier of intelligent automatic test equipment and selective soldering systems, consolidating Aegis’s and Seica’s mutual vision to support Italian and EU government-driven environment sustainability and Industry 4.0 digitalization initiatives.

Virtual, mixed, and augmented reality

And in a related initiative, Theorem Solutions launched a new app that the company said democratizes the use of augmented, mixed, and virtual reality in engineering and manufacturing. The new Visualization Experience app forms part of Theorem’s Digital Realities product family and has been developed for users to engage with, and interact with, their engineering and manufacturing data.

The company said augmented, mixed, or virtual reality for engineering or manufacturing is still in its infancy, with the techniques primarily restricted to large automotive, aerospace, and defense companies.

“Virtual Reality has already been used commercially for over 30 years, but in expensive Powerwalls and Caves, and is driven very much by niche suppliers in the engineering space,” said Stuart Thurlby, Theorem’s CEO.4 “Therefore, even for companies with deep enough pockets, the availability and access to it is very limited.” However, he said, a new wave of VR devices, along with new devices for augmented and mixed-reality technology, is beginning to gain momentum in the commercial world.

He said that although companies offer virtual, mixed, or augmented reality for engineering and manufacturing, his company is one of the first to offer all three. “Our solution means that the CAD and PLM data only needs to be prepared and optimized once, but can then be used on augmented, mixed, and virtual-reality devices, allowing flexibility and freedom of choice,” he noted.

Thurlby said he expects the market for the technologies in engineering and manufacturing won’t become mainstream for the next 12 to 18 months. However, he said, “Both Theorem, with our Visualization Experience, and the engineering and manufacturing organizations we are marketing it to, are ‘early adopters.’ We are trying to determine the best use cases for these new technologies and at the same time working out what the return on investment will be.”

 
 
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