Easy system prototyping with Arduino and LabVIEW

Easy system prototyping with Arduino and LabVIEW © CC BY-NC

Learn how to start with advanced application development and prototyping using only Arduino and LabVIEW.

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About this project

Arduino allows not only for DIY projects but also for fast prototyping of more advanced projects. Combining Arduino with LabVIEW environment further adds a lot of additional tools for further enhancement and analyzing. Thanks to that real time graph displaying, recording data, printing out results or making nice interface for new application has never been easier.

This tutorial will star the series of tutorials showing how to develop various applications on Arduino platform with LabVIEW and it's easy, powerful and interesting language.

What you'll need?

To start with you will need two main components: Arduino and LabVIEW. If you are reading this I assume you already have Arduino. As for LabVIEW you need to download it.

Since LabVIEW is National Instrument tool their website is a place to go. From there you can download it for free and use for up to 45 days. I'd say it's enough time to get to know this environment and language well enough so you'l be able to decide whether it is worth buying or not.

I've found two places where LabVIEW can be bought by hobbyist:

Configuring LabVIEW

After you'll download and installation of LabVIEW additional library (package) is required that will allows to work easily with Arduino - MakerHub LINX

I have to point out here that there are multiple possible libraries that provide this feature, but the one showed here is the most advanced and most popular. If you'd like to know how to use other libraries, please let me know in the comments.

LabVIEW provides special application for managing additional libraries called VI Package Manager (BTW - VI is the name of LabVIEW project file). To open it from the main window go to Tools->VI Package Manager.

Next, when new window will open, in Search box in top right corner type in "MakerHUB". This way you'll narrow down the list. From there open MakeHUB LINX.

You'll see window similar to this one:

In most cases (that is if you have only one version installed) the version in the list should show yours. If no, remember to change it to the correct one.

After clicking Install you'll be asked if you also want to install dependencies, that is "MakeHUB Toolbox". It is required by the library to work correctly. After going through licences libraries will be installed and they will appear on the VI Package Manager's list with extra icon:

Now you've installed library and it's time for Arduino.

Installing firmware on Arduino

Almost every application that allows for some interaction without actual coding with Arduino have some special firmware. LabVIEW/MakerHUB is no different. In this case everything is done from LabVIEW using special VIs.

Start with opening Tools->MakerHUB->LINX->LINX Firmware Wizard...

You'll see window and 3 drop down lists. There you can choose your device. As you can see this library is supporting not only Arduino. After clicking Next button you must choose to which COM port Arduino is connected. To check it you can either go to Device Manager on Windows or check it from Arduino IDE. In my case it is COM 3.

If you don't see any COM ports visible and only "ASRL1:" then it most likely means that you don't have NI-VISA (Virtual Instrument Software Architecture) correctly installed. To fix this download drivers from NI website. After download proceed with information displayed on windows. When you'll restart computer everything should works fine now.

After clicking two more time Next firmware will be uploaded onto Arduino. If TX/RX diodes are flashing it means everything is working. After uploading you'll see this window:

From there you can chose to open an example or finish whole process. I recommend opening example just to be sure if everything is uploaded correctly. Also this way you'll see your first VI.

Without getting very much into detail, because I'll write about it in next tutorials, to run it you simply need to do two things.

First change "Serial Port" to the one where your Arduino is connected. Just the way you did previously. Second, run VI. To do that press arrow button below "Edit", go to Operate->Run or press Ctr+R. Now whenever you'll click green circle selected "Digital Output Channel" will toggle it state. When you'r done press Stop.

What's next

As I wrote at the beginning this is initial tutorial for series of LabVIEW+Arduino tutorials. I'll start with some simple projects moving on to more advanced ones at the same time explaining graphical language used in LabVIEW.

If you have any suggestions/ideas what projects/features you'd like to see here please let me know  in the comments and I'll do my best to show them in easy to understand way.

Troubleshooting

Since during installation and configuration some common problems may appear I've decided to gather there solutions for them for future reference. Also because for some of them it is not easy to find them online.

1. I don't see any library when I'm opening VI Package Manager.

If you don't see any library after opening VI Package Manager you need to check for repositories updates. To do that in VI Package Manager window go to Tools->Check All Package Repositories for Updates.

2. I have problems downloading MakerHUB packages and I have this window showing up:

To get rid of this problem you need to modify "VI Server" settings. To do that from main LabVIEW window go to Tools->Options... and then to VI Server. There check checkbox next to TCP/IP in Protocols and save it. Now it should work.


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