National Instruments Announces FPGA Capabilities for Distributed I/O

NI 9144 Deterministic Expansion Chassis Now Features Programmable FPGA to Provide Intelligent Distributed Nodes

Sept 1, 2009 – National Instruments (Nasdaq: NATI) has announced new field-programmable gate array (FPGA) capabilities for the NI 9144 expansion chassis. By downloading the NI-Industrial Communications for EtherCAT 1.1 driver from, engineers and scientists can now run National Instruments LabVIEW FPGA code directly on the NI 9144 chassis to execute custom triggering, inline processing and control within an application. By embedding hardware-level FPGA logic directly on the expansion I/O, engineers and scientists can offload processing power from the controller and reduce response time by making decisions directly at the node. With these new capabilities, the NI 9144 chassis is ideal for providing intelligent, synchronised extension I/O to NI CompactRIO, NI industrial controllers and NI PXI real-time systems.

“The National Instruments graphical system design approach using FPGA technology can far exceed the performance capabilities of traditional distributed machine control and industrial embedded systems,” said John Hanks, Vice President of Industrial and Embedded product lines at National Instruments. “By leveraging the continuous advancements in commercial technologies such as FPGAs, engineers and scientists are building solutions that only a few years ago were the domain of embedded and control design experts.”

The NI 9144 provides the ability to create highly distributed real-time systems that need synchronised control across multiple machines, high-speed waveform measurements and processing at the node and hardware-in-the-loop simulations and feedback. Each expansion chassis has a 2M gate Xilinx Spartan FPGA that can react immediately to measurement data, conduct high-speed analysis and pass the final results back to the programmable automation controller via EtherCAT, an open real-time Ethernet protocol. Additionally, the FPGA and I/O data can be synchronised across multiple distributed NI 9144 chassis with less than 100 ns of jitter for highly deterministic performance in time-critical applications.

The NI 9144 is compatible with all NI C Series I/O modules for high-accuracy measurement quality, including the new NI 951x C Series motion modules that offer direct connectivity to hundreds of servo and stepper drives. The expansion chassis can be programmed with the LabVIEW Real-Time Module for fast and easy real-time expansion and with the LabVIEW FPGA Module for hardware-level timing, signal manipulation and onboard analysis.

For more information on the NI 9144 and to view a webcast on distributed intelligence, readers can visit The “Introduction to EtherCAT” white paper in the NI Developer Zone located at also features information on the fundamentals of EtherCAT technology as it applies to NI products. Additionally, readers can access the NI High-Performance Real-Time Distributed Control Bundle on to assemble and purchase a custom real-time distributed control system for their specific applications.

About National Instruments
National Instruments ( is transforming the way engineers and scientists design, prototype and deploy systems for measurement, automation and embedded applications. NI empowers customers with off-the-shelf software such as NI LabVIEW and modular cost-effective hardware, and sells to a broad base of more than 30,000 different companies worldwide, with no one customer representing more than 3 percent of revenue and no one industry representing more than 15 percent of revenue. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, NI has more than 5,000 employees and direct operations in more than 40 countries. For the past 10 years, FORTUNE magazine has named NI one of the 100 best companies to work for in America. Readers can obtain investment information from the company’s investor relations department by calling (512) 683-5090, e-mailing or visiting

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