The Newsletter for PC-Based Data Acquisition and Control
Issue 104 www.windmill.co.uk March 2007
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* Windmill Tips: COMIML Checklist
* Excel Corner: How to Use a Macro to Insert a Chart
* DAQ News Roundup
Windmill Tips: COMIML Checklist
COMIML lets Windows software collect data measurement
devices connected to the PC's COM port. These include
electronic balances used in a laboratory, GPS receivers
used in the field and data loggers used in process plant.
The COMIML device driver can communicate over RS232,
RS422, RS485 or Modbus. More details of COMIML are at
The first thing to do with CONFIML is configure it for
use with your instrument.
1. From the Windmill start menu select ComDebug. This
utility lets you configure CONFIML.
2. In ComDebug's opening screen select "Create a new
Windmill Instrument File". The Main Menu appears.
3. Choose "Edit COM Port Settings" and enter your
instrument's communications settings: baud rate,
com port number, etc. Click the Help button if you
are not sure of the settings to use.
4. From the Main Menu choose "Add a new Message".
This lets you send a message to your instrument
and view its reply.
a. If your instrument needs to be sent a command to
return data, then type this command into the
Prompt grid. If you need to enter characters not
available from the keyboard, such as Returns or
Linefeeds, you can
- Use the NonPrint menu, or
- Enter the Hexadecimal code into the Hex column, or
- Press the Num Lock key and, using the numeric
keypad, enter the decimal code into the Char column.
b. If your instrument does not need to be sent any
commands then leave the Prompt string grid blank.
c. Select Send. The instrumentĘs reply is shown in
the Reply grid.
5. Extract the relevant data from the
instrument's reply. Click the Parse button.
a. Click Add Action to search for or ignore
characters in the instrument's reply.
b. Type the characters to search for, or the number
of characters to ignore, into the Parameters box
c. Click over the next row then select Extract.
The Channel Details box appears.
d. You now need to create a channel in which to
store the extracted data. In the Channels
Details box click Add Channel.
e. Click this channel in the grid and select it.
f. You are returned to the Reply Parser window
and enter an Extract parameter. For instance,
if you chose "Extract N Bytes" then type the
number of bytes (characters) that make up
g. Click Step to test the parsing.
h. If everything is correct Click OK. Otherwise
edit your settings.
6. Choose whether you want to continually take readings
from your instrument in the background, or to take
readings only when requested to do so. In the Main
Menu choose "Edit the Instrument Timings". If you
have an instrument that sends data regularly without
any prompting you would usually choose background
7. Save your settings. From the Main Menu select
Save .IMD file.
8. Repeat for any other instruments.
9. Windmill lists all your serial instruments as
modules within a COMIML Device. Go back to the
opening screen and click "Edit Windmill Device".
Press the Add button and select one of the instrument
files. Add as many files as you have instruments.
10. Run the Windmill ConfIML program and add the
COMIML Serial Instrument Handler.
11. Run the SetupIML program. This lets you specify
how you want to use your instrument. Select
COMIML from the Device menu and double-click
your channels to choose names, units, ranges and
12. You are now ready to use the Windmill logging,
charting, display and control programs. The next
time you use Windmill you can go straight to this
For these instructions with picture see
The ComDebug.hlp file contains full instructions on
using COMIML. Press the Help button during
configuration then go to the Overview topic.
For more about the COMIML Serial Driver go to
Issue 47 of Monitor used a real-world example of how to
configure COMIML for use with a custom PLC.
For a full explanation of the COM port settings: baud
rate, parity, etc, see
If you cannot pursuade your instrument to send data
If you have any other problems using COMIML contact
Excel Corner: How to Use a Macro to Insert a Chart
This sub-routine will embed a chart into an Excel
worksheet called Sheet1.
Dim chtChart As Chart
'Create a new chart.
Set chtChart = Charts.Add
'Set the Sheet on which to place the chart
Set chtChart = chtChart.Location(Where:=xlLocationAsObject, Name:="Sheet1")
.ChartType = xlLine
'Set data source range.
.SetSourceData Source:=Sheets("Sheet1").Range("A5:h16"), PlotBy:= _
.HasTitle = True
.ChartTitle.Text = "=Sheet1!R1C1"
'Set where the chart is placed
.Top = Range("A17").Top
.Left = Range("A17").Left
.Name = "Chart"
The location defines on which sheet the chart is to be
placed. xlLocationAsObject specifies that the chart is
embedded on the worksheet, rather than being placed on
its own Chart sheet.
ChartType defines the type of chart to be drawn. Our
example uses a line chart. Other chart types include,
xlColumnClustered, xlScatter and xlBarStacked.
Source defines the location of your data. Ours is in
cells A5 to H16 of Sheet1.
The Top and Left settings define where you want the
chart to appear. We've set it to appear immediately
below our data at A17
For more tips on using Excel for data acquisition and
DAQ News Roundup
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Physicists pioneer new super-thin technology
Researchers have used the world's thinnest material
to create a new type of technology, which could be
used to make ultra-fast electronic switches.
Physicists at The University of Manchester and The
Max-Planck Institute have created a new kind of a
membrane that is only one atom thick.
Source: The University of Manchester
DCS Market in Asia Thriving
Strong economic activity in Asia is spurring the growth
of manufacturing, which in turn is propelling the growth
of the automation market in the region. The Asian market
for Distributed Control Systems (DCS) is expected to grow
at 9.0% over the next five years, according to a new
ARC Advisory Group study.
Source: Arc Advisory Group
Back-up satellite to secure Galileo navigation system
The frequencies allotted to the Galileo satellite navigation
system will be safeguarded under a deal announced by the
European Space Agency. "From now on, there will always be
a European navigation satellite in space," the ESA
Source: New Scientist
New Coating Is Virtual Black Hole for Reflections
Non-reflecting material may help solar cells catch more
of the Sun's rays. Researchers have created an anti-
reflective coating that allows light to travel through it,
but lets almost none bounce off its surface. At least 10 times
more effective than the coating on sunglasses or computer
monitors, the material, which is made of silica nanorods,
may be used to channel light into solar cells or allow more
photons to surge through the surface of a
light-emitting diode (LED).
Source: National Science Foundation
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