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Ask any production engineer, control or instrumentation specialist to define his objectives and his reply will probably include increasing efficiency without compromising on quality or reliability. Ask him what his most pressing problems are and lack of suitably trained personnel will almost certainly be high on the list. Happily, both of these perennial problems can be solved with the aid of a PC (or PC-compatible) acting as an intelligent controller. All that is required is sufficient peripheral hardware and the necessary software to provide an interface with the production/test environment.
As an example, consider the procedure used for testing and calibrating an item of electronic equipment. Traditional methods involve the use of a number of items of stand-alone test equipment (each with its own peculiarities and set-up requirements). A number of adjustments may then be required and each will require judgment and expertise on the part of the calibration technician or test engineer. The process is thus not only time consuming but also demands the attention of experienced personnel. Furthermore, in today’s calibration laboratory and production test environment, the need is for a cluster of test equipment rather than for a number of stand-alone instruments. Such an arrangement is an ideal candidate for computer control.
The computer (an ordinary PC or PC-compatible) controls each item of external instrumentation and automates the test and calibration procedure, increasing throughput, consistency, and reliability, freeing the test engineer for higher level tasks. A PC-based arrangement thus provides a flexible and highly costeffective alternative to traditional methods. Furthermore, systems can be easily configured to cope with the changing requirements of the user. The book aims to provide readers with sufficient information to be able to select the necessary hardware and software to implement a wide range of practical PC-based instrumentation and control systems. Wherever possible the book contains examples of practical configurations and working circuits (all of which have been rigorously tested).
Representative software is also included in a variety of languages including x86 assembly language, BASIC, Visual BASIC, C, and C++. In addition, a number of popular software packages for control, instrumentation and data analysis have been described in some detail. Information has been included so that circuits and software routines can be readily modified and extended by readers to meet their own particular needs.
Overall, the aim has been that of providing the reader with sufficient information so that he or she can solve a wide variety of control and instrumentation problems in the shortest possible time and without recourse to any other texts. This book is aimed primarily at the professional control and instrumentation specialist. It does not assume any previous knowledge of microprocessors or microcomputer systems and thus should appeal to a wide audience (including mechanical and production engineers looking for new solutions to control and instrumentation problems). The book is also ideal for students at undergraduate and post-graduate level who need a ‘source book’ of practical ideas and solutions.
The companion website, www.key2control.com, has a variety of additional resources including downloadable source code and executable programs. A visit to the site is highly recommended! This book is the end result of several thousand hours of research and development and I should like to extend my thanks and gratitude to all those, too numerous to mention, who have helped and assisted in its production. May it now be of benefit to many!