Giving Growth to Plants & Life to Machines

Irrigation companies supply our lawns and farmers with the water they need. Delivering water is big business and these companies make billions of sprinkler products currently available in your hardware store that are expected to work for years without problems, which means plenty of automated test.

Last summer the controller division of a major Southern California sprinkler company contacted Cyth in need of assistance. The company described how they make commercial and industrial sprinklers and have many test fixtures in Mexico. One of their fixtures was relatively old and running NI PXI hardware based on Windows XP and LabVIEW 7.

The client's test fixture used an 8 slot PXI chassis filled with relays (matrix and general purpose switches), digital multimeters, industrial digital I/O, a power supply, an oscilloscope and a general purpose Data Acquisition card. Recently their Windows XP machine died and they had little success in trying to revive it. They tried ghosting the hard drive, but that gave them lots of errors because of the missing drivers.

After talking to National Instruments (NI), NI recommended Cyth and we informed the client they can't merely bring the LabVIEW code over after upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7. On top of that, their equipment was out of calibration and one of their devices was not supported on newer versions of LabVIEW drivers. So the company decided to take this opportunity to upgrade the entire system. Cyth recalibrated and reused what cards were reusable, bought new cards as necessary, updated the software for the new technology. The client also agreed to capitalize on this opportunity by making the test fixture operate faster, install newer and better sensors, and update/modify their data storage format by adding a local database on their machine. This database would not only store important data but generated reports their employees used to have to do by hand.

Projects that upgrade from Windows XP and/or LabVIEW 8 are more difficult than most companies initially perceive. In this case (like many others), recalibration compatibility proves to be a large unforeseen issue. Cyth had to not only recalibrate each individual channel, but the I/O, polarity and MAX settings on the test fixture as well. To execute such a task successfully requires a deep understanding of the technology, hardware, drivers and source code. Cyth engineers have a good understanding of device settings, find it in the registry, files that need to be copied, and what other applications and drivers need to be installed. In four weeks Cyth was able to successfully complete the entire project. Three weeks offline and one week of cut-over to install, test, and make sure everything ran smoothly. When it was all said and done both Cyth and the client was extremely happy with the results, and eagerly look forward to future business together.

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