Case Study #1: Medical Equipment Manufacturer – Uninterrupted Power Application
The customer, a medical equipment manufacturer, needed a system to add monitoring capabilities to magnetic resonance imagers. This was a retrofit for older MRI machines – newer products included them by design.
The monitor was designed to handle the customer’s worst-case scenario: a loss of power at the start of a long weekend. MRI machines depend on super-cooled magnets whose temperature is maintained by liquid helium. If power is lost, the liquid helium heats up. As it expands, it ruptures an overpressure relief and escapes into the atmosphere. If this occurs, it costs on the order of $50,000 and takes a week to rehabilitate and recharge the machine so that it can be used again.
To deal with this situation, the monitor watched the helium temperature and level, as well as a number of other machine parameters. If an error occurred, or if electrical power was lost, the system would log the problem to nonvolatile memory, then dial out via modem and report the error to a host system. If power was lost, the monitor switched to a backup battery. Multiple power outages could be logged, in case the host system couldn’t be reached (such as if the phones were also out). The host system could also call into the monitoring system to request machine status, outage history, and adjust alarm levels.
Vesta provided a custom board and wrote the application for it in a proprietary BASIC running on a Microchip PIC16F877 processor.
Case Study #2: Government Laboratory – Robot Application
The customer was a government laboratory participating in a competitive effort to produce an autonomous ordnance-clearing robot, one that would clear an area of unexploded ordnance (UXOs). This was one of a number of competing development efforts from several such laboratories.
The robot used multiple sensors – a magnetic sensor that detected UXOs and could tell if they were to the left or right of the robot, GPS and electronic compass for navigation, contact switches and ultrasonic transducers for obstacle detection, radio modem for communicating with an operator station, infrared transceivers for inter-robot communications and coordination, and position determination for the manipulator arm used to pick up the ordnance.
Vesta provided a custom I/O and motor control board that one of our 68332-based computers plugged into, and wrote the robot control software in C.
Case Study #3: Water Quality Measurement Application
The customer had a method of determining water quality by measuring the light output of bioluminescent bacteria before and after exposure to the water in question. They needed a system capable of working with multiple samples in a session, performing analyses using multiple methods, and dealing with high speed input from a photomultiplier tube (PMT), effectively counting individual photons. The system had to maintain a test results database, handle timing functions, operator input and output, and be hand-held and battery-operated for field use.
Vesta provided a custom board based on our SBC196 computer, and wrote the customer’s application (and a variant of it for a customer of the customer) in Forth. The application as delivered also included extensive tests performed at power-up to determine whether the system was able to work to specifications, as well as a complete set of hardware diagnostic tests that could be invoked by the operator.