The customer's situation involved a very large piece of equipment that was cooled to extreme temperatures using liquid helium. This equipment was accessed via underground tunnels and all equipment needed to be transported via motorized vehicle.
To manage the helium system, cart-sized leak detectors would be place near the equipment and turned on. Up to 16 such carts could be placed around an arc over a total distance of nearly 1000 feet. The signals from these detectors needed to be synchronized in order to determine leak propagation.
System uptime was of paramount importance. When a leak occurred, technicians would be deployed immediately and often worked shifts longer than 24 hours until the system was brought back online. The system is also taken down occasionally for preventative maintenance and this time must be used as efficiently as possible.
Often, the system could run perfectly for a year before a leak occurred. This meant that the detection hardware and software had to be incredibly reliable and ready to go at a moments notice.
DMC provided a combined hardware and software solution. We leveraged our excellent background in LabVIEW development combined with our Microsoft expertise to develop a system that used a LabVIEW-based viewer on Windows XP Embedded hardware to meet our stringent uptime and reliability requirements. The actual data acquisition was achieved using a National Instruments cRIO running a realtime operating system. All data is saved to TDMS format which allows easy post-processing and management, as well as the ability for data to be analyzed in Microsoft Excel. The TDMS format also kept file sizes small for long data acquisition runs.
The de-coupling of the viewer and the acquisition platform allows for future expandability. In future implementations the acquisition unit could be placed remotely and controlled via a network connection. The choice of XP Embedded also means the viewer application was compatible with a standard Windows installation saving the cost of programming separate applications for live viewing and for reviewing past tests.
Learn more about DMC's expertise in LabVIew programming for real-time and FPGA.