Automating spectral measurements
Optical Fabrication, Testing, and Metrology III
This paper discusses the architecture of software utilized in spectroscopic measurements. As optical coatings become more sophisticated, there is mounting need to automate data acquisition (DAQ) from spectrophotometers. Such need is exacerbated when 100% inspection is required, ancillary devices are utilized, cost reduction is crucial, or security is vital. While instrument manufacturers normally provide point-and-click DAQ software, an application programming interface (API) may be missing. In
... may be missing. In such cases automation is impossible or expensive. An API is typically provided in libraries (*.dll, *.ocx) which may be embedded in user-developed applications. Users can thereby implement DAQ automation in several Windows languages. Another possibility, developed by FTG as an alternative to instrument manufacturers' software, is the ActiveX application (*.exe). ActiveX, a component of many Windows applications, provides means for programming and interoperability. This architecture permits a point-and-click program to act as automation client and server. Excel, for example, can control and be controlled by DAQ applications. Most importantly, ActiveX permits ancillary devices such as barcode readers and XY-stages to be easily and economically integrated into scanning procedures. Since an ActiveX application has its own user-interface, it can be independently tested. The ActiveX application then runs (visibly or invisibly) under DAQ software control. Automation capabilities are accessed via a built-in spectro-BASIC language with industry-standard (VBA-compatible) syntax. Supplementing ActiveX, spectro-BASIC also includes auxiliary serial port commands for interfacing programmable logic controllers (PLC). A typical application is automatic filter handling.