Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Guidance for Mech. Engr's trying to learn Programming, DAQ, & Controls

  1. Jan 29, 2014 #1
    Brief background:
    8 yrs exp in mechanical design/engineering of medical devices and CVD/PVD equipment for semiconductor
    B.S. in Mechanical Engineering
    P.E. in Mechanical Engineering (strength of materials & machine design focus)

    I'm looking for guidance/ learning recommendations for broadening my engineering skill set to include: competencies in C/C++ programming; setting up data acquisition test stations; and doing basic controls/automation of solenoids, stepper motors, pumps, and control valves. I'd really love to be able to write some simple c/c++ code for my computer or a micro-controller for reading pressure transducers or strain gauges, actuate a couple of solenoids off/on, sense some push buttons and ramp up/down a stepper motor or 3. It would be super helpful to be able to read and understand the software (typically in C) on legacy devices that our company has had for over 10 years after the principle engineers have retired/left.

    Would I need to acquire a post baccalaureate in computer science or would that have me spending 80% of the time in classes that would not benefit my goal? Is there a better focus for instrumentation and controls in electrical engineering?

    Currently I've bought some hobbyist books for learning to program, wire, and use Arduino's. It's been pretty fun, but I feel that they might be a little overly simplistic to get a good understanding of the fundamentals. I would feel a little embarrassed to use an Arduino for an automated test station for production of medical devices; I've never seen them used at any of the companies I've worked for. Are there any good books for just starting from scratch on your PC, write some code in C, use your serial/parallel/usb ports to sense and control projects?

    Thanks for any help.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 29, 2014 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    What you are discussing is pretty simple software... the complexity is in the controls and instrumentation. I would focus on that. Find some class notes and tutorials on the methods you are interested in. I don't think specific training in CS would be helpful. You don't need the theory, just the practical skills.

    There is a simple GUI-based programming system used for instrument control and test automation (that is how I have used it). It is called Labview. You should check it out. If you can get your company to buy it there are tons of tutorials and documentation for it. It is quite easy to get started and understandable for non-CS types.
  4. Jan 29, 2014 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Yep. Here's a link for the OP. http://www.ni.com/labview/
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Discussions: Guidance for Mech. Engr's trying to learn Programming, DAQ, & Controls