Using NI CompactDAQ and NI LabVIEW for Lattice Boom Crane Structural Design Validation

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"With efficient sensor instrumentation by our field engineers and scalable platforms like NI CompactDAQ and LabVIEW, ITM exceeded the customer’s high-channel count test system requirements and met both time and budget goals."

- Mark Yeager, Integrated Test & Measurement

The Challenge:
Building a distributed-strain data acquisition system to verify that new configurations of heavy lift lattice boom cranes with different boom and jib lengths comply with SAE J 987 design criteria standards.

The Solution:
Using NI CompactDAQ, LabVIEW, DAQmx, and iTestSystem software to acquire and analyze data from 144 strain gages mounted along the boom and jig.

Mark Yeager - Integrated Test & Measurement

To comply with SAE J 987 design criteria standards, large sections of the crane’s lattice boom and jib had to be instrumented with strain gauges and tested under various loads.  For this validation, NI Gold Alliance Partner Integrated Test & Measurement needed a system that could acquire data from 144 350 ohm quarter bridge strain gages, distributed along the entire length of a 300 ft boom and jig. Since the crane testing was outdoors, all instrumentation, hardware, and cabling had to be properly sealed and environmentally protected during the multi-week duration of the project.

Figure 1. 144 strain gages were mounted along the entire 300 ft boom and jig.

The system consisted of four individual NI CompactDAQ 8-slot Ethernet chassis filled with NI 9236 C Series modules, totaling 144 strain gage signals. Because each C Series module included integrated signal conditioning, we were able to reduce wiring and system complexity. Quarter bridge completion, bridge excitation, filtering and signal amplification are built into the NI 9236 module, so we didn’t need external circuitry to read these strain channels. Also, because the chassis communicate using standard Gigabit Ethernet, we could easily daisy chain the chassis together using local Ethernet switches and standard Cat 5e cable to stream the strain data to the host computer and minimize the use of fragile and expensive signal cables.


Figure 2. Built-in signal conditioning and high speed Ethernet connectivity simplified configuration and setup of a complex, distributed measurement system.

To protect the hardware from the environment during the project, all components were mounted in NEMA 4X enclosures then attached to the respective sections of the crane boom. We provided custom cable harnesses to supply both 24VDC power and Ethernet communication to each enclosure through IP67 rated connectors and fittings. 

The quick connect fittings offered the flexibility to accommodate various boom length configuration tests as required by the industry specifications. The test engineers could quickly disconnect and reconnect the cabling as necessary to allow the crane riggers to add or remove boom inserts. This flexibility helped reduce the time required for configuration changes.

Figure 3. ITM mounted each chassis inside environmentally sealed enclosures with IP67 connectors and fittings.

To calibrate, collect and view the strain data, we used our configuration based data acquisition and analysis software, iTestSystem. To process the strain data, we paired iTestSystem with the customer’s in house analysis software to process the strain data.

System Components

The system contained the following:

NI Hardware: cDAQ-9188 (x4) and NI-9236 (x16)

Third-Party Hardware: Ethernet Switches and NEMA 4 Enclosures (x4)

NI Software: LabVIEW and NI-DAQmx driver software

Third-Party Software: iTestSystem

Figure 4. Our iTestSystem software provided a simple, configuration-based user interface for acquiring and managing data from the 144-channel measurement system.

The Advantage of a Solution From National Instruments
We met the customer’s crane test requirements by providing a complete turn-key solution to validate the design of their new boom and jib configuration for compliance with the SAE J 987 specifications.  With efficient sensor instrumentation by ITM’s field engineers and scalable platforms such as NI CompactDAQ and LabVIEW, we exceeded the customer’s high-channel count test system requirements and met both time and budget goals.

Author Information:
Mark Yeager
Integrated Test & Measurement

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