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25 October 2012

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Data Acquisition Intelligence

The Newsletter for PC-Based Data Acquisition and Control
Issue 171        October 2012
--------------------ISSN 1472-0221----------------------

Welcome to Monitor - this month we've a story about how 
a research laboratory used Windmill to investigate 
effects of flooding on building materials.

For more data acquisition news and tips follow us on 
Twitter - @DataAcquisition.

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* Investigating Flood Effects on Building Materials

* Excel Corner: Plotting Random Samples against Time

* DAQ News Round-up

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Investigating Flood Effects on Building Materials

Engineers at University College London (UCL) are 
investigating the effects of wind-driven flood conditions 
on different wall cladding materials. To do this they are 
using a Microlink 3000 from Biodata, and Windmill software, 
to log data and control conditions.

They chose Windmill Test Sequence software to control the 
flood events - water from rainfall, wind, etc.  Windmill 
lets the researchers cycle many events during the 
monitoring period and examine long term changes to the 
wall cladding.  Test Sequence communicated with a Microlink 
analogue output module to send, for example, 4-20mA signal 
to control spray nozzles.

The researchers monitored environmental parameters, such as 
temperature and humidity, at a number of positions within 
the test lab. They used Microlink modules to interface 
combined T (temperature) and RH (relative humidity) sensors 
to the Windmill logging software. Strain on the wall cladding 
panels under test was monitored using strain gauges connected 
to a Microlink 3052 bridge input module. The 3052 also 
interfaced load cells in order to monitor compression of 
the panels.

Windmill software also collected data from a Microlink 3020 
event timer, recording the timing of compression events.

The Microlink connects to the PC via USB. The Windmill 
Graphics software shows the status of the lab in real-time, 
updating continuously to reflect the real-world conditions.

More Information

For more information about the design, and research 
expectations, for the laboratory contact:
Victoria Stephenson
Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering
University College London
Gower Street
[email protected]

About The Microlink 3000
The Microlink 3000, from Biodata, is a modular system for 
measurement and control. It offers unrivalled hardware 
flexibility, allowing almost any instrument or transducer 
to be connected to a personal computer. With a range of 
over 40 interchangeable modules, Microlink is equally 
suited to high or low speed data acquisition and to 
control, timing or counting. For more on the 
Microlink 3000 see
or e-mail [email protected].

More on the Windmill Software
For more on our Windmill software visit
or contact us at [email protected].

Excel Corner: Plotting Random Samples against Time

We welcome your Excel questions, and have been asked: 
"How do I plot randomly-timed samples against an evenly 
spaced time axis?"

In Excel charts you can choose a category axis or a 
value axis. In a line-type chart, for example, the x axis 
is a category axis.  Although the labels may be times, 
they are treated as text and spaced evenly, in the order 
they are listed in the spreadsheet, regardless of their 
values. So if you had a reading at 10:20, 10:22, 10:30 
and 10:31, you would have four evenly spaced ticks on 
the x axis.

Excel line chart
Athough there are two minutes between 10:20 and 10:22, and eight minutes between 10:22 and 10:30, they are the same distance apart on the chart. To space the x axis to reflect the actual times, you need to choose a value x axis. For example, an x-y scatter chart uses a value axis. The x axis ticks are spaced according to the time, and in the right order. You can see that the two graphs give a different impression of the rise in temperature. Excel xy scatter chart
The x axis ticks are spaced according to value, although Excel's automatic choices for the ticks and labels may not be what you would choose Excel uses a decimal number to represent time. To discover the relevant number, use the formula =TIME(10,20,0), where the first figure is the hours, the second the minutes and the third the seconds. Make sure that the cell in which you enter the formula is formatted as a number with at least 5 decimal places. You can now tell Excel to use this time number as, for example, the first tick on the x axis. - Right-click the x axis on the chart and choose Format Axis - Choose Scale - Enter the number in the Minimum box Changing the time axis labels You can do the same for the interval - find the number and enter it into the Major unit box. For more Excel charting tips see If you want to ask us a question on using Excel please e-mail [email protected]. ________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________ DAQ News Round-up ________________________________________________________ Welcome to our round-up of the data acquisition and control news. If you would like to receive more timely DAQ news updates then follow us on Twitter at!/DataAcquisition Wireless meters tell snoopers when you are not home Criminals no longer need to stake out a home or a business to monitor the inhabitants' comings and goings. Now they can simply pick up wireless signals broadcast by the building's utility meters. Source: New Scientist Canada Invests $32 Million in Ocean Science Canada has the longest coastline in the world and is investing in a network of underwater sensors to record and broadcast, in real time, data and images from the sea floor. Source: SCUBA News Survey shows continued wireless survey growth Despite a challenging economy, the industrial Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) market has doubled over the past two years. A recently completed ON World survey of 216 industrial automation professionals, in collaboration with ISA, HART Communication Foundation (HCF), and the Wireless Industrial Networking Alliance (WINA), points to increasing WSN adoption and expanding markets. Source: ISA Research team claims low-cost photovoltaic solution Oxford researchers have developed a photovoltaic (PV) technology claimed to have the potential to deliver low-cost, efficient solar cells that can be incorporated into glass building facades. Source: The Engineer ________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________ * Copyright Windmill Software Ltd * Reprinting permitted with this notice included * For more articles see We are happy for you to copy and distribute this newsletter, and use extracts from it on your own web site or publication, providing the above notice is included and a link back to our website is in place. An archive of previous issues is at and an index of articles at Windmill Software Ltd, PO Box 58, North District Office, Manchester, M8 8QR, UK Telephone: +44 (0)161 833 2782 Facsimile: +44 (0)161 833 2190 E-mail: [email protected]


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