I have a test fixture with a number of communication/data acquisition devices on it that is used as an end of line test for a product.
Because of all the various sensors used in the bench and the need to run the test procedure in near real-time, I'm having a hard time structuring the program to be more friendly to modify later on. For example, a National Instruments USB data acquisition device is used to control an analog output (load) and monitor an analog input (current), a digital scale with a serial data interface measures position, an air pressure gauge with a different serial data interface, and the product is interfaced through a proprietary DLL that handles its own serial communication.
The hard part
The "real-time" aspect of the program is my biggest tripping point. For example, I need to time how long the product needs to go from position 0 to position 10,000 to the tenth of a second. While it's traveling, I need to ramp up an output of the NI DAQ when it reaches position 6,000 and ramp it down when it reaches position 8,000. This sort of control looks easy from browsing NI's LabVIEW docs but I'm stuck with C# for now. All external communication is done by polling which makes for lots of annoying loops.
I've slapped together a loose Producer Consumer model where the Producer thread loops through reading the sensors and sets the outputs. The Consumer thread executes functions containing timed loops that poll the Producer for current data and execute movement commands as required. The UI thread polls both threads for updating some gauges indicating current test progress.
Unsure where to start
Is there a more appropriate pattern for this type of application?
Are there any good resources for writing control loops in software (non-LabVIEW) that interface with external sensors and whatnot?