CompactRIO (or cRIO) is a real-time embedded industrial controller made by National Instruments for industrial control systems. The CompactRIO is a combination of a real-time controller, reconfigurable IO Modules (RIO), FPGA module and an Ethernet expansion chassis.
The CompactRIO system is a combination of a real-time controller chassis, reconfigurable IO Modules (RIO), an FPGA module and an Ethernet expansion chassis. Third-party modules are also available, and are generally compatible with NI-produced chassis controllers.
CompactRIO real-time controllers include a microprocessor for implementing control algorithms, and support a wide range of clock frequencies. Controllers are only compatible with National Instruments C Series I/O Modules. I/O modules are hot swappable (can be connected/disconnected while the unit is powered up).
The FPGA Module may be used to implement high-performance data processing on reconfigurable fabric. Such data processing may be performed on data streaming in from connected I/O Modules. The module is powered by a Xilinx Virtex high-performance FPGA. The FPGA can be programmed separately and is connected to the real-time controller using an internal PCI bus.
The Ethernet chassis includes an Ethernet port (8P8C), which can connect the CompactRIO controller to a PC. The chassis is available in 4 slot and 8 slot varieties.
Third-party modules are manufactured for additional features, such as LCD or VGA displays. Newer, high-performance CompactRIO controllers also have built-in VGA graphics which can be connected to a monitor for observing operation.
The controller comes with a Linux based RTOS, NI Linux Real-Time, created as part of the Linux Foundation's Real-Time Linux Collaborative Project. Programs created in LabVIEW are compiled into machine code for NI Linux Real-Time and hardware description language (HDL) for the Xilinx FPGA toolchain automatically during deployment of the code to the target.
The Linux Real-Time OS running in the real-time controller supports a filesystem and hence data logging is also available at the controller level. The Full Development System version of LabVIEW does not come with the modules needed to program the cRIO. The Real-Time Module and FPGA Modules have to be purchased separately and installed with LabVIEW for programming the hardware. The programming is done on a Host PC running the Windows operating system and is deployed on the cRIO via Ethernet.
CompactRIO systems are often used as an industrial control unit, where a small form factor and ruggedness are important.
CompactRIO is commonly used as headless systems (without a user interface) which are designed to run in a confined space, under harsh conditions. CompactRIO systems can also be connected to a host PC which can be used for supervisory purposes and for displaying logged data.
Other examples of applications areas are: Intelligent Systems for the Industrial Internet of Things(IIoT) , Power Electronics and Inverter Control, Condition Monitoring of Rotating Equipment, Power Quality Monitoring, Transportation and Heavy Equipment, and Laser or Hydraulic Control.
The CompactRIO was used until 2015 as the primary control unit in the FIRST Robotics Competition. It has been replaced now by the National Instruments RoboRIO.
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