Heavy Machine Main Controller

December 31, 2013

Our customer, a Milwaukee-based manufacturer of some of the largest mobile machinery in the world, needed expert assistance with LabVIEW and National Instruments cRIO for a set of development projects in their organization.


Because the customer did not have any signficant experience with LabVIEW, they turned to Sentient Revolution for help. In wokring with the customer, we recognized several factors the we needed to consider as we developed their next generation of products:


  • The machines that the customer produces are generally very expensive ($10M to $30M pieces of equipment)


  • The customer's machines are generally considered mission critical: downtime is very expensive for their customers


  • The machines are very complex, very powerful, and extremely heavy (up 3.5 million pounds per machine)


  • The machines are generally deployed in some of the remotest locations on the planet, where diagnosing and debugging design errors would be extremely difficult


  • The machine mechanical and electrical systems were being designed concurrently with the software and requirements were going to be very fluid for a long time


  • The customer's product lifecycle is generally measured in decades


We worked closely with the customer's controls development team to accomplish the following:


  • Develop and understand the product requirements as it relates to controls


  • Develop a complete controls system software architecture that supported the use of a cRIO, FPGA, Windows-based GUI, and industrial I/O (CAN-J1939, CANOpen, and Profibus)


  • Ensure that the software framework was flexible enough to tolerate significant changes in requirements as the project progressed


  • Develop a software test framework so that software processes could be validated and regression tested in a software-only environment


  • Fully document and test the software as it was being developed


  • Prototype and model as much as possible


The end result was the development of a robust software platform that could be used for a variety of products for years to come. It included customer-specific developer tools to reduce the incidence of programmer-introduced bugs as they used the framework in the future. It also included customer-specific debugging, validation, and development tools to make development within the framework easier and more efficient.


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