Data Acquisition (DAQ) and Control from Microstar Laboratories

Data Acquisition and Control under Windows

2004 at Microstar Laboratories: The Year in Review

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Bellevue, WA, December 31, 2004 -- [Microstar Laboratories, Inc., maker of Data Acquisition Processor (DAP) boards, has issued this summary of developments over the past year for the benefit of their customers and potential customers.]

Three factors, all concerned with improvements in support, have made a good product line even better: faster development, streamlined customization, and easier system integration.

Recently introduced DAPstudio software makes application development quicker and easier. A context-sensitive developer interface under Windows presents the right tool at just the right time all the way through the development process. A dramatically simple array layout lets you configure and reconfigure high-channel count systems quickly and easily. Drop-down menus let you choose at each point the exact built-in command you need for faster development of the onboard processing you require for real-time operation under Windows.

DAPL, the onboard real-time operating system that controls every DAP board (and that you control from the PC), includes over a hundred data-acquisition specific commands. For most applications, a combination of only a few of these commands provides all the onboard processing required, and completely specifies the runtime behavior of the DAP board. Some applications, however, run better with customized extensions to the standard command set. Enhancements to DAPL now allow you to create and package a set of additional commands as an application-specific DAPL module, automatically downloaded to the DAP board when you boot up the PC. These enhancements streamline customization of your application.

DAPserver test, measurement, and control products - preloaded with Linux or Windows and DAPcell network server software complement the DAP product line. A DAPserver mounts in an industry-standard 19-inch rack, and includes a hard drive. DAPcell client software on any PC on the network can request data acquisition or control services from any of up to four DAP boards on any DAPserver. Input and output design conforms to the channel architecture that Microstar Laboratories has implemented in 3U Eurocards. This channel architecture combined with DAPserver or other rack-mounted server products makes for easier system integration.

Real-Time Response Free from Local or Network-Related Delays

Onboard intelligence - in the form of DAPL, a real-time operating system running on a dedicated processor - sets Data Acquisition Processor (DAP) boards apart from other PC products for data acquisition. A user normally controls DAPL through Windows on a PC, either locally or over a network. DAPstudio, the recently introduced Windows product mentioned at the beginning of this document, now makes it even easier to configure a DAP board for high-performance applications. A complete application can require as few as six or seven commands out of the many available. New tools have made it even easier to extend the command set with a customized DAPL module if specialized applications require this.

Specialized applications feature in a section of the company Web site devoted to control issues. This page links to a growing number of articles that focus on some of the subtleties of control and how to address them with customized DAPL modules. Subjects already include

Engine Speed Monitoring: The Alpha-Beta Filter

"Estimating a rotating engine's speed is not trivial, particularly when the only information available is a 'top dead center' pulse..."

DAPL Commands as State Observers - A Hydraulic Control Application

"[It] is sometimes very difficult or very expensive to accurately measure every relevant variable. State observers can be used to 'fill in' missing information to good approximation."

Nonlinear Adaptive Control of a Biological Reactor - Beyond PID

"...[When] PID control doesn't work very well, but where a specialized controller does... what are the alternatives? Biological processes sound very easy, but... these present just about every kind of control system nightmare..."

New titles join the list as new applications come up, so you may want to bookmark the page and revisit it often.

Conclusion and Next Step

Over the last year, Microstar Laboratories has placed a major emphasis on software development to make a good hardware product line even better - by introducing tools for faster development, streamlined customization, and easier system integration. As the beginning of this document makes clear, this effort has resulted in a must-have product for every new DAP customer: DAPstudio. Find out more about DAPstudio or read the cited and other articles on Control. To contact the company from the United States, call 888 MSTARLABS (888 678-2752) or (425) 453-2345. From other countries, contact your local distributor or email us.

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Editorial Overview:

Microstar Laboratories, Inc., maker of Data Acquisition Processor (DAP) boards, sums up the benefits of its work for the year on behalf of customers under three headings: faster application development, streamlined customization, and easier system integration. Recently introduced DAPstudio software speeds development by providing the right tool at the right time all through the development process. Application-specific modular extensions to the onboard operating sytem (DAPL) streamline customization. A consistent channel architecture and rack-mountable servers preloaded with software make system integration easier. Online articles go into the finer points of acquisition and control systems. Contact us.

Note to the Editor:

Microstar Laboratories, Inc. claims Microstar Laboratories, Data Acquisition Processor, DAP, DAPL, and DAPstudio as trademarks.

Microsoft Corporation has registered Windows as a trademark. Microsoft and other organizations may claim - or may have registered - as trademarks any trade names, logos, and service marks that appear in this document but not in the list above.

Microstar Laboratories makes it a practice to use an appropriate symbol at the first occurrence of a trademark or registered trademark name in a document, or to include trademark statements like this with the document.