Graphical System Design Using LabVIEW

Introduction to Graphical System Design

To compete in the current economic condition, you need innovative products that can enter the market fast. A graphical system design is one such innovative approach that meets the requirement for testing embedded systems or designs.

Graphical system design is a revolutionary approach, which can solve complex design challenges. It is software that merges intuitive graphical programming and commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware. This system can greatly help engineers and scientists to design effective prototypes and deploy embedded systems. It is because when you use this approach, it ensures that you use a single environment throughout all the stages of design. 

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Graphical system design uses an open platform of software and hardware. It shortens the integration cycle for new technology and functionality. It can help you visualize and implement systems quickly because it makes accessing the technology easier.

In a graphical system, the computer processes spatial representation in two dimensions or more. It uses graphical programming to replace the text with pictures or symbols. It is an effective tool for introducing computer programming to visual learners. 


Laboratory virtual instrument engineering workbench (LabVIEW) was created by National Instruments in 1986. It is a graphical programming environment that is quite popular in many industries. LabVIEW provides a graphical programming approach which will aid you in visualizing every aspect of your application. It includes hardware configuration, debugging, and data measurement.

It uses a graphical programming “G” that compiles into machine code eliminating syntactical data. LabVIEW programs are known as virtual instruments. 


[Related Article:- LabVIEW Programming]

Benefits of using LabVIEW

  • Intuitive graphical programming

The G language that LabVIEW uses is quite intuitive and easy to learn for engineers and scientists as they are visual learners. 

  • It provides interactive debugging tools

LabVIEW graphical G language is easy to comprehend which makes common programming tasks like debugging easy to perform. LabVIEW has an interactive debugging tool which lets you watch data moving through wires of its program and see data value as they move along the wires from one function to another.

  • It lets you combine G language with other languages

Sometimes, G language is not ideal for some tasks like mathematical equations and formulas; you can represent them better with text. In such a scenario, LabVIEW lets you combine graphical programming with textual based programming. With LabVIEW, you have the option to choose from textual, graphical or a combination of both the approaches.

  • It provides a better way to solve problems

LabVIEW provides a better way to solve designing problems than the traditional textual programming means. It is a higher level language, but the performance is still great. The language has longevity and intuitiveness which makes it a better solution.

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Other features that you get with LabVIEW are:

  • Graphical User Interface (UI). 
  • Modular design and hierarchical design. 
  • The feature of Drag-and-drop 
  • Development tools of professional and high-level tools
  • It reduces cost and investment
  • It is scalable and flexible
  • It works on multi-platform

Difference between Graphical Programming and Textual Programming

Basis of differenceTextual programmingGraphical programming
1. Syntax       To do programming, knowing syntax is important.Knowing syntax is crucial, but you don’t need it for programming, only for knowledge.
2. Programming baseIt is text-basedIt is icon-based 
3. Difficulty level    It requires more knowledge. The programmers have to be proficient in the language to do the coding.

It is easy to learn and more intuitive and simple to use.

Even non-programmers can learn this approach at a reasonable time.   

4.  Performance   They have better performance.Their performance is good, but it lacks conviction that textual programming offers.
5. Who should use it?  It is best for trained engineers who know how to work with these toolsThe graphical programming environment is best suited for non-programmers. 
6. Level of interaction   It is non-interactiveIt is highly interactive
7. Error checkingYou have to compile or execute the program to check for error.   It indicates the errors as the programmer wires the clocks.
8. Program execution  Program execution is from top to bottom.    You can execute the program from left to right
9. Parameters    It is difficult to pass parameters to sub-headings.It is easy to pass parameters to sub VI.

Graphical Programming for Embedded Design    

Most embedded systems run autonomously, and they need to execute multiple tasks parallel with specific time requirements. For instance, take a machine control system which controls a linear stage and lightning and read in video data. In a system like this, multiple processes must take place parallel to each other, in real time and deterministically. If you use a textual programming tool like C for this, it will get complex.

Thus, you require a graphical approach and LabVIEW can help with that. It has native functionality which makes programming complex models in real time easy. It natively incorporates timing into code with the help of code structures. It implements timings and represents parallelism easily as you can see in the below image.

code structure

Since many years, LabVIEW is working to expand and incorporate various multiple computation models to meet the needs of embedded system designers. As of now, it includes:

  • Text-based math
  • Time simulation that runs continuously
  • Graphical dataflow models represent a variety of algorithms.
  • Interactive tools that can enhance the design for digital filter and so on,

Customizable Off-the-shelf Prototyping Platforms

In order to address issues of the late release of designs and their failure, we need a better system. It requires a system that integrates with real-world signals and hardware into the design process. A customizable prototyping platform (off-the-shelf) can help to iterate high-quality designs and give solutions to problems at the earliest. 

  • In order to address issues of the late release of designs and their failure, we need a better system.
  •  It requires a system that integrates with real-world signals and hardware into the design process. It helps to iterate high-quality designs and give solutions to problems at the earliest. 
  • LabVIEW has already combined algorithm design and logic design with the help of the LabVIEW FPGA Module. It targets the LabVIEW designs to FPGAs on NI hardware. (See the below image)

algorithm design

Why you need a COTS system?

  • Today, it is difficult to develop the software and hardware in parallel when you are creating custom hardware for deployment. The reason is that the software is tested on the hardware only when the process reaches the system integration step.
  • It means that you will find the problems too late to fix them or meet design deadlines.
  • Thus, If you use flexible COTS prototyping platforms, it truly streamlines the process as shown in the below image.
  • It eliminates most of the work that hardware verification and board design require. 
  • A graphical system design wants to achieve the same standardization as modern PCs when it comes to prototyping platforms.

system specification


  • To tackle this problem, NI has created CompactRIO that contains a 32-bit processor and runs a real-time operating system. 
  • It contains an FPGA which implements high-speed processing and configures and provides interfaces to I/O modules. 
  • Each of the modules has a direct connection with sensors and actuators as well as a built-in signal for conditioning and isolation.


[Related Article :- Labview Structures ]

Custom Deployment Options

  • You can often require a CompactRIO deployment due to its packaging, durability, and cost. But sometimes due to power or so, you may require small and custom board designs. 
  • For this, designers can use LabVIEW embedded development module that they can use to deploy code to a various 32-bit processor.
  • It has all the benefits of graphical development and also some advanced features like analysis, integrated I/O and graphical debugging. 
  • It targets all 32-bit processor while providing a framework for integrating numerous existing C-based third-party tool chains and OS to target custom designs board.
  • The above technology is of great use for scientists, engineers and domain experts. It helps them to design algorithms, develop, etc. and then deploy it to their target.

Platform-Based Approach

  • Graphical system approach uses the platform-oriented approach. The approach helps the system that requires measurement and control in developing faster.
  • When you are developing a system, you have three choice- build from scratch, purchase a complete solution, or upscale the existing systems. 
  • When you use a graphical approach, you reduce the development process. It happens because you can use your existing knowledge of the platform for mapping any application requirement.
  • The flexible, connected hardware and software platform approach speed-up the intensification of the test, monitoring, and control, and any system that requires control and measurement.
  • The below images are the LabVIEW software and hardware which enables a system platform approach to development. This approach aids you in integrating evolving technology with ease with time while ensuring that you get the best and a higher level of performance, productivity, and cost-effective solutions.

platform based approach

Flexible System Platform- Its key elements

  • A system that requires control and measurement has some elements which are essential to its working. These key elements are:
  • Measurement I/O and control I/O, analysis, mathematical models, user interface or operator interface and so on.
  • For implementing and designing a system like this, you require different ways that can define the functionalities of the system in the software. When these elements are combined with hardware platforms that are physical, the functional system becomes a reality.
  • LabVIEW graphical software merges all the elements of the systems in a way that any complexity is abstracted. It aids you to keep your focus only on meeting and removing the challenges of your application instead of system merging. 
  • It provides you various methods to visualize system functionality of using a computation model which is the best.
  • Moreover, it lets you visualize the timings of your system easily with the help of various tools. At last, you have the option to choose from thousands of community and inbuilt libraries that have many components that you may need to create a system.

Abstracting Complexity

labview fpga

  • The above figure illustrates the procedure LabVIEW uses to abstract complexities from commercial technologies. 
  • It has loops and icons which can replace numerous lines of code that equals to VHDL code. It abstracts other elements of the system like protocols for communication, I/O, digital signal and analysis and so on similarly. 
  • It gives you the functionality of high level which you can combine low- level approach whenever you require. 
  • It leverages commercial technology, and you gain quickly the cost benefits and performance of these commercial techniques.

Merging Diverse Requirements

  • When you use a graphical system design, you can meet requirements of different nature faster. For system functionality visualizing, system components that are different in nature require different methods/computation model to describe them best. 
  • LabVIEW integrates multiple computation models to define different components of the system using the best possible way.
  • Optimizing Hardware architecture- Graphical designing system
  • Graphical system design includes both software and hardware and implementation platform. 
  • When in the execution phase, design tools IP require translation which makes the development slow down. Implementation of preliminary design using traditional methods requires many apparatus and disciplines.
  • But with graphical system design, you can beat these challenges. With this approach, you can integrate the software with modifiable, ready-made hardware from start to end, the graphical advance takes an inclusive look of the system and it is best to aid in development.   

Real-World Application Of Graphical System Design 

  • The merits of using a design system in productivity have made its presence known in every industry. Here are some real-life examples- 
  • At Biorep, engineers are using graphical system design that can control complex and medical instrumentation that requires automation. Using the graphical approach allows Biorep to have a single learning curve for software and hardware. It reduces the development time for the company from years to months.
  • Predix Design System is a new graphical design system. It provides a robust tool kit to designers and developers. The system aids developers a lot as it avoids design replication for data-driven and huge applications, and also offers reusable components.

Platform Ecosystem Boosts Innovation

One benefit of using graphical system design is that it lets you leverage other engineer’s work in the platform ecosystem. It helps you access thousands of components both hardware and software which efficiently helps to resolve your application.

In graphical system design, you get to work with a platform that has low complexity, and it can easily integrate hardware and software to reduce the time consumed in the development course. With LabVIEW, you get hardware that you can reconfigure and has an IP ecosystem. It lets you leverage numerous works from thousands of people and years to create something innovative and fast.


Graphical system design is a modern approach that brings a software platform combined with a hardware platform. It aids in designing measurement and control simplifying the development process and also reducing the cost and time. When using graphical system design software like LabVIEW, it helps save time. As since starting i.e. from your design to the prototyping phase to your final deployment phase, you can use the same software. It maximizes the reuse of code and transitioning into the deployment state is easy. 

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Last updated: 04 Apr 2023
About Author

Ravindra Savaram is a Technical Lead at His passion lies in writing articles on the most popular IT platforms including Machine learning, DevOps, Data Science, Artificial Intelligence, RPA, Deep Learning, and so on. You can stay up to date on all these technologies by following him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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