For research institutes and test facilities, finding replacements for discontinued equipment can be quite challenging. If the original vendor does not offer replacement products, then it is up to the customer to find another compatible solution. Unfortunately, this was the situation when NI discontinued its motion control product line in 2018.
For most customers, finding a replacement is not an urgent issue... until a hardware failure brings operations to a halt. When this happens, how can the customer resume normal function with minimal disruption to their system?
The below is an actual story from one of our customers…
John is a lab technician at a prominent optics research facility. His duties includes ensuring all lab equipment is in working order so researchers could conduct experiments without setbacks. Over the years, the lab invested heavily in state-of-the-art equipment, including high-power lasers and precision motorized stages. NI LabVIEW was selected as the integration tool due to its ease of use.
One day, John encountered a critical problem. The NI motion controller that was used to operate one of the lab's most important machines was defective! All of the experiments scheduled for that machine had to be postponed indefinitely.
John tried everything he could to fix the controller, but it was beyond repair. He contacted NI who had originally supplied the controller, but to his dismay, he found out that the product had been discontinued, with no migration path!
John was at a loss as to what to do next. The researchers were relying on the machine to complete their work, and John was under a lot of stress.
At this point, John considered his options. He could try to find a secondhand replacement on eBay, but there would be no guarantee of its quality. Also, even with an exact hardware replacement, newer versions of LabVIEW do not support the old hardware anymore. This means John would be confined to an old version of LabVIEW, and miss out on new features and improvements.
Alternatively, John could replace the NI motion controller with one from another vendor. This would be a better long-term solution, but there are many implications to consider.
- First, the new motion controller must work with their existing motor hardware. It would be very expensive and disruptive to replace the precision motors that were already installed.
- The new vendor needs to provide good LabVIEW support. John’s schedule was already delayed, and John could not afford any more setbacks from vendors who are unfamiliar with LabVIEW.
- Lastly, the effort required for software migration must be considered. How similar is the new controller's LabVIEW driver to the existing LabVIEW driver? Would there have to be many code changes and rewiring? What if something goes wrong?
John's head began to ache as he considered his options. He felt frustrated with all the effort required just to get things back up and running again. He wondered to himself, "Shouldn't there be a easier way to do this?"
Protect expensive test equipment and previous investments
This story depicts an actual customer scenario, where the customer faced disruption due to a failed NI motion controller. The customer was unable to get replacements from NI, as NI discontinued the plug-in motion controllers (PCI/PXI) in 2018, and the CompactRIO based SoftMotion controllers in 2020. More info about this can be found on ni.com:
Affected model numbers include:
- NI-9512, NI-9514, NI-9516, NI-9503 C-Series CompactRIO modules
- NI LabVIEW SoftMotion Module
The impact for customers:
- Cannot buy NI motion controllers to replace hardware failure
- Cannot buy NI motion controllers for system replication
- Cannot use new versions of LabVIEW with discontinued old hardware
- Cannot continue to use previous equipment and legacy LabVIEW code
The real cost of replacement
On the surface, replacing a motion controller may seem trivial; a generic motion controller can be purchased from many vendors for a cost ranging from $500 to $3000 USD. However, replacing a motion controller is more complicated than simply swapping out a monitor or keyboard. Hidden costs associated with motion controller replacement may include:
- Replacing or modifying hardware to make the new motion controller compatible with the existing system
- Efforts to migrate LabVIEW code, including system re-validation and debugging
- Time required to learn how to use a new motion controller, including learning new command sets and new LabVIEW API
- Compatibility issues between the new motion controller and LabVIEW
Without careful planning, the hidden costs of a hardware replacement can add up to many times the cost of the replacement hardware itself. Like a painful hip replacement, most customers are not aware of the complexities of a motion controller replacement… until a hardware failure brings this matter to their attention.
Thankfully, the TENET Technologies EMotion controller provides a proactive solution that offers customers a clear transition path with minimal effort. By using the TENET EMotion to replace discontinued NI motion controllers, customers can resume using their test and measurement equipment with minimal disruption to their system.
Minimize the impact of replacing obsolete NI-Motion controllers
To minimize the impact of replacing the NI motion controller, the TENET EMotion tackles the problem from three areas:
- Hardware compatibility
- For each I/O signal from the previous NI motion controller, we provide 1:1 mapping to the TENET EMotion controller.
- If the customer provides the model info of existing motors, we also verify motor compatibility with TENET EMotion for the customer before purchasing.
- Software compatibility
- The TENET EMotion VIs are similar to previous NI-Motion VIs, allowing for a smooth VI replacement with minimal rewiring.
- TENET EMotion supports LabVIEW versions from 2015 and above. Future versions of LabVIEW will also be supported.
- TENET has several certified LabVIEW engineers on staff, including CLAs (Certified LabVIEW Architects) and CLDs (Certified LabVIEW Developers) who can give support for troubleshooting, as well as guidance for application development and best practices.
With rapidly changing technology, it is natural for test and measurement equipment to face end-of-life and obsolescence. However, in the case of NI motion controllers, there was not a replacement product offered by the original vendor. By using the TENET EMotion to replace discontinued NI motion controllers, customers can resume using their test and measurement equipment with minimal disruption to their system.
Looking to replace a discontinued NI motion controller? Check out our brochure
to learn if TENET EMotion will fit your needs: