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An Introduction to the NI LabVIEW RIO Architecture

Publish Date: Jan 28, 2015


The NI LabVIEW reconfigurable I/O (RIO) architecture is an integral part of the NI graphical system design platform. A modern
approach to designing, prototyping, and deploying monitoring and control systems, graphical system design combines the open NI
LabVIEW graphical programming environment with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware to dramatically simplify
development, which results in higher-quality designs with the ability to incorporate custom design.
Table of Contents

1. The NI LabVIEW RIO Architecture

2. NI RIO Hardware Devices
3. Explore RIO
1. The NI LabVIEW RIO Architecture

Figure 1. RIO System Architecture

The NI LabVIEW RIO architecture is based on four components: a processor, a reconfigurable field-programmable gate array
(FPGA), modular I/O hardware, and graphical design software. Combined, these components give you the ability to rapidly create
custom hardware circuitry with high-performance I/O and unprecedented flexibility in system timing control.

The processor is used to deploy code to communicate with other processing units such as the FPGA, interface with peripherals,
log data, and run applications. NI offers RIO hardware systems in a variety of form factors ranging from high-performance
multicore systems with symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) running the Microsoft Windows OS to small, real-time embedded
systems such as NI Single-Board RIO and CompactRIO.

The reconfigurable FPGA is the core of the RIO hardware system architecture. It is used to offload intensive tasks from the
processor and provide deterministic execution with extremely high throughput. The FPGA is directly connected to the I/O modules
for high-performance access to the I/O circuitry of each module and unlimited timing, triggering, and synchronization flexibility.
Because each module is connected directly to the FPGA rather than through a bus, you experience almost no control latency for
system response compared to other industrial controllers.
Because of the FPGA speed, RIO hardware is frequently used to create controller systems that incorporate high-speed buffered
I/O, very fast control loops, or custom signal filtering. For instance, using the FPGA, a single CompactRIO chassis can execute
more than 20 analog proportional integral derivative (PID) control loops simultaneously at a rate of 100 kHz. Additionally, because
the FPGA runs all code in hardware, it provides the high reliability and determinism that is ideal for hardware-based interlocks,
custom timing and triggering, or the elimination of the custom circuitry normally required with custom sensors.
Modular I/O

NI C Series I/O modules contain isolation, conversion circuitry, signal conditioning, and built-in connectivity for direct connection to
industrial sensors/actuators. By offering a variety of wiring options and integrating the connector junction box into the modules, a
RIO system significantly reduces space requirements and field-wiring costs.

Figure 2. You can choose from more than 100 I/O modules for NI RIO systems to connect to almost any sensor or actuator.

Figure 2. You can choose from more than 100 I/O modules for NI RIO systems to connect to almost any sensor or actuator.
You can choose from more than 100 NI and 3rd party developed C Series I/O modules to connect to almost any sensor or
actuator. Additionally, with the NI cRIO-9951 CompactRIO Module Development Kit, you can develop custom modules to meet
application-specific needs.
LabVIEW Development Platform

National Instruments provides a complete development solution for the graphical system design of embedded applications so you
can efficiently design, prototype, and deploy your system on a single software platform. With LabVIEW graphical system design
software, you can develop applications for the processor, synthesize your own custom measurement circuitry on the FPGA, and
then seamlessly integrate the two with modular I/O to create a complete RIO solution.

Figure 3. LabVIEW offers a complete RIO development platform.

2. NI RIO Hardware Devices

Figure 4. RIO Device Matrix


CompactRIO is a small, rugged RIO system ideal for embedded and prototyping applications. Configurable with four- and
eight-slot backplanes featuring a variety of FPGA options, as well as a variety of processor choices for the controller, CompactRIO
offers the widest range of configuration options in the RIO family. You also can purchase CompactRIO as a low-cost integrated
system or use it to architect truly distributed systems with the NI 9144 deterministic Ethernet expansion chassis.


Figure 5. CompactRIO, Integrated CompactRIO, and CompactRIO Deterministic Ethernet Expansion Chassis
NI MXI-Express RIO

The MXI-Express RIO chassis is the latest addition to the NI RIO platform. A 14-slot FPGA enabled chassis for C-series I/O
modules, MXI-Express RIO differs from the other devices in the NI RIO platform in that it decouples the FPGA and I/O from the
processor, and allows multiple chassis to communicate to the same controller over a x1 MXI Express connection.
By providing a cabled RIO solution MXI-Express RIO allows
Greater flexibility in system configuration
Higher channel counts
C Series expansion I/O for existing PXI systems.

Figure 6. The MXIe-RIO combines the advantages of the RIO platform with the speed and power of best-in-class PXI and
Industrial controllers
NI Single-Board RIO

NI Single-Board RIO devices integrate the RIO system components (real-time processor, FPGA, and I/O) on a single board, and
are designed for high-volume, embedded control and acquisition applications that require high performance and reliability.

Figure 7. NI Single-Board RIO


NI FlexRIO hardware provides flexible, customizable I/O for the LabVIEW FPGA Module to create high-performance,
reconfigurable instruments. With an open, customizable signal front end, you can meet the exact requirements of a test or
embedded system. You can design specific analog-to-digital converters, digital buffers, connectors, and even channel counts to
work in concert with an FPGA target programmable with LabVIEW.


Figure 8. NI FlexRIO systems, consisting of an adapter module and PXI FPGA module, offer a new level of customization for
LabVIEW FPGA applications.

Featuring National Instruments industry-standard reconfigurable I/O (RIO) technology, NI myRIO places dual-core ARM Cortex-A9
real-time performance and a customizable Xilinx FPGA in the hands of students. Using this integrated hardware and software tool,
students can quickly create applications on NI myRIO's real-time processor leveraging the default FPGA personality which they
can customize as projects become more advanced. With its onboard devices, seamless software experience, and library of
courseware and tutorials, NI myRIO provides educators an affordable tool to teach multiple design concepts on one device and
gives students the technology to complete real-world design projects in one semester.

Figure 9. NI myRIO is an embedded hardware device designed specifically to help students design real, complex engineering
systems more quickly and affordably than ever before.
3. Explore RIO

The advantages of the LabVIEW RIO architecture continue to be verified through customer successes. Explore the benefits of
reconfigurable technology for your application area to see how you can design, prototype, and deploy more effectively.

Plant Control
Motion Control
Machine Monitoring

Medical Device Design
Renewable Energy


Consumer Electronics
Rapid Control Prototyping