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Integrated Lab Measuring and Controlling (Labview, Labjack, ...)

Posted: Sun Jan 06, 2019 7:52 pm
by Harald_Consul
If you are evolving from a nature science, you are already familiar with it. Performing interesting experiments (like nuclear fusion) usually require a lot of trial runs. Thus, monitoring scientific experiments in shifts (including the weekends) has been - and still is - one of the major hobbies of nature scientists.

However, integrated lab measuring and controlling can bring some automatization into the lab. It works like this, that the sensors of the experiment are connected to a measurement and control port, that brings conection to the monitoring software on the computer. Usually a parameter set is defined, within which the experiment is in good and healthy condition. As far the experiment remains within the parameter set, integrated lab measuring and controlling allows experiments to be performed automatically without personal monitoring. Otherwise the automatic run of the experiment gets aborted.

A famous software for integrated lab measuring and controlling is Labview. Another more semi-professional one is Labjack.

What are your experiences with integrated lab measuring and controlling?
Which software do you use?
How do you manage the problem, that the drivers of the measurement and control port usually are only provided for Windows and do not get updated to new Windows versions, any more?

Re: Integrated Lab Measuring and Controlling (Labview, Labjack, ...)

Posted: Fri Jan 11, 2019 9:06 am
by Jerry Biehler
I used labview to control my vacuum system that I have been building for ebeam deposition. I needed to talk to things like my VAT valve which is controlled through RS-232 so it was really the simplest way. I used something similar to a labjack to handle the analog outputs from the pressure sensors I used. Labjack is more of a series of hardware solutions for I/O than software.

Labview has a rather steep learning curve. There is a lot of help out there though and there are lots of examples and demos that you can build off of. Sometimes it is just easier to do simple stuff with an arduino, but if you want a nice HMI like I did that eliminates the arduino right away.

And Labview for home use is only $50. Sure it is only windows but I hate linux so I am quite ok with that. As long as you are running 32 bit windows you can still use most old drivers, it is when you get into 64bit windows when drivers have to be signed which is just annoying. But most of the companies making this hardware have drivers. Just make sure before you buy a piece of hardware you can get drivers for it.

The control I built: ... view-wheee

Re: Integrated Lab Measuring and Controlling (Labview, Labjack, ...)

Posted: Fri Jan 11, 2019 10:12 pm
by Richard Hull
What can I say.... As an old friend once said to me looking over some of my projects..........."nice stuff!" Actually, the best stuff.

Richard Hull

Re: Integrated Lab Measuring and Controlling (Labview, Labjack, ...)

Posted: Sun Jan 13, 2019 7:58 pm
by Harald_Consul
So you "hacked" the vacuum sensor to integrate the bare sensor signal into your lab? That's exactly what I am thinking about. Mainly because high quality lab meters with PC data connection are unbelievable expensive.

But if one uses MS Windows as operating system for it, the whole valuable integrated lab will be a Windows zombie machine in 10 years. Without any support and highly unsafe to connect to the internet.

Re: Integrated Lab Measuring and Controlling (Labview, Labjack, ...)

Posted: Sun Jan 13, 2019 9:07 pm
by Richard Hull
All of this stuff is ephemeral and time stamped. Ancient instrumentation and lash-ups not tied to software, operating systems and the originator is still viable albeit limited by any modern standards. The latest and greatest in the computer age is forever doomed to a rapid disintegration, due to lost, outdated and incompatible new software that will not run on any but the old operating system.

I was once hot on assembly language on the 6800, 8000 and 6502 processors. Basic, Pascal, Forth, Fortran etc., not so much any more.

As I became proficient in one assembler, or interpreted higher language I was chided for still working in that old chips assembler and not this "new thing". I just grew tired of it all and now, since retirement, only fiddled with the C variant of the Arduino IDE. It is enough for me to do all I want in my remaining years.

I often wonder if I was a victim of the "real" computer revolution 1973-1990. Things moved at such a rapid pace, companies came into existence and went out so fast along with micro-processors and early languages, that it left one with a swimming head trying to keep up. I remember as late as 1990 when if you were not Novell certified, you were lost in system level work.

Running any complex non-computerized system today is considered a backwater. IOT is creeping into every appliance, and on and on it goes, where it stops, nobody knows.

I'll let the youth and gifted of today have it all to themselves. I fear that if something nasty happens, with all the entanglement of systems and conveniences taken for granted by modern people there will be no one single person who can know it all well enough to put a broken humpty-dumpty back together again.

For a fusor system, it seems like an Arduino-mega coupled with a bit of electrically controlled valves and instruments could be worked out by a dedicated "Arduinoist".

Richard Hull

Re: Integrated Lab Measuring and Controlling (Labview, Labjack, ...)

Posted: Mon Jan 14, 2019 8:36 pm
by Harald_Consul
You are right Richard.

On the other hand, however, integrated lab measuring on a computer also offers some advantages:
  • Exact time synchronization of different measurements.
  • Producing an integrated data set with all measured variables, that can be analyzed by a statistics software, that allows very sophisticated analysis and thus may uncover hidden information.
  • Exact recalculation of the true single events of a complex multiple event history. E.g. in an energy spectrum analysis these energy "channels" of classical "multi channel" analyzer do not measure exactly, when two or more different events happen in the same measurement time frame.
  • ...

Re: Integrated Lab Measuring and Controlling (Labview, Labjack, ...)

Posted: Tue Jan 15, 2019 1:39 am
by Chris Mullins
MegunoLink ( is something I plan to try when adding computer control to my setup. I haven't used it before, but it looks promising. I've never been a fan of LabView - too high level for my tastes.

Re: Integrated Lab Measuring and Controlling (Labview, Labjack, ...)

Posted: Tue Jan 15, 2019 4:23 pm
by Michael Bretti
I have also been exploring MegunoLink with an Arduino Mega controller for my system as well. So far I am quite happy with it, and customer support has been great. I'm only about maybe 1/3 done with my code, but it has made creating a user control interface with monitoring and data collection very easy, despite the fact that I am very weak in coding. While the program does have its limitations and may not be for every application, I definitely plan on using it for any future applications that require system control, monitoring, and interlocking. I will say that it does seem like it has the potential to create quite powerful control loops without significant effort.

If anyone else is planning on using MegunoLink, I will be releasing both of my Arduino code and MegunoLink code for reference when its complete. However, even though it is not complete, I would still be happy to share my Arduino and Megunolink files as an example of implementation. You can see some screen shots of the current screens at the bottom of the page in the link: ... -pictures/. I have it set up so there are multiple tabs that simultaneously run that I can switch between. So a start-screen, manual mode, auto mode, cooling system data, vacuum system data, etc.

The code consists of both soft and hard interlock monitoring, cooling system data plotting and acquisition, and plotting/acquisition for the roughing and high vacuum gauges. At the bottom of each screen are interlock alarms that change color based on the state of the interlock. Manual mode is mostly set up and ready to go, which allows me to individually control the pumps, chiller, and fans for the cooling system, as well as the roughing and diffusion pump power (with sequential interlocking to prevent something like the diffusion pump from being turned on without cooling or roughing.) Auto mode is not implemented yet, but will eventually include a fully automated sequence to start up the cooling and vacuum systems from off and automatically bring the entire system up to full vacuum from atmosphere.

A general description of the system can be found here as well: ... ol-system/. I haven't been able to work on it in quite a while, focusing on just getting my vacuum system running and accelerator designed, but I will be revisiting it once the vacuum system is done and I complete my initial beam tests.

Re: Integrated Lab Measuring and Controlling (Labview, Labjack, ...)

Posted: Tue Jan 15, 2019 7:06 pm
by Harald_Consul
The MegunoLink seems to be a nice insider tip. However I doubt, ATMega Controller can do high frequency sensing like a PC oscilloscope.

Last week at cleaning up my old lab stuff I have refound my old USB-PC-oscilloscope. 70MHZ and with Labview driver. Really no bad equipment. However, as it is already round about 10 years old, I cannot do anything with those old ***.inf and ***.sys drivers any more. I even cannot identify on the manufacturer's driver CD, for which Windows version those drivers have been built (2000, XP, Vista, 8.1, 32bit, 64bit)? This Windows driver obsolescence is really annoying!!

Has anyone managed to run an old an Windows in a virtual machine image and to assign 1 or 2 USB ports to the image (and performed measuring on it) ?

Re: Integrated Lab Measuring and Controlling (Labview, Labjack, ...)

Posted: Tue Jan 15, 2019 7:22 pm
by Michael Bretti

Yes, you are correct about MegunoLink and Arduino not being able to do high frequency sampling like a scope. For my system, I am only using it for very slow changing monitoring and interlocking of the infrastructure. So like temperature sensors, flow sensors, and vacuum sensors, as well as power to the chiller, fans, pumps, etc. My interlock and monitoring program is set for 1Hz acquisition, which is more than enough for my interlocking purposes. For any fast data stuff, like fast signals, pulses, nuclear instrumentation, etc, I would use a regular scope or proper instrumentation hardware.