Journal of Software Engineering and Applications, 2013, 6, 113-120 Published Online March 2013 (
Electrical Metrology Applications of LabVIEW Software
Hala M. Abdel Mageed, Ali M. El-Rifaie
National Institute for Standards, Giza, Egypt.
Received December 21st, 2012; revised January 23rd, 2013; accepted January 31st, 2013
Automation in measurement has wide range of electrical metrology applications and construction of powerful calibra-
tion software is one of the highly accurate metrological laboratories’ priorities. Thus, two automatic systems for con-
trolling and calibrating the electrical reference standards have been established at National Institute for Standards (NIS),
Egypt. The first system has been built to calibrate the zener diode reference standards while the second one has been
built to calibrate the electrical sourcing and measuring instruments. These two systems act as the comprehensive and
reliable structure that, from the national electrical standards, disseminates the traceability to all the electrical units under
calibration. The software of the two systems has been built using the Laboratory Virtual Instrument Engineering Work-
bench (LabVIEW) graphical language. The standard development procedures have been followed in the building of
both systems software. The software requirement specifications as well as functional specifications are taken into con-
sideration. Design, implementation and testing of the software have been performed. Furthermore, software validation
for measurements’ uncertainty as well as results’ compatibility in both automatic and manual modes has been achieved.
Keywords: Electrical Metrology Applications; Automation; LabVIEW; Software Validation
1. Introduction
Programmable instruments are now widely employed
and increasingly included in metrological laboratories,
they can automatically perform high quality and time
consuming operations required in calibration activity.
Automation in measurement includes instruments con-
trolling, measurement processing and results analysing.
Accordingly, there is an effective request for software
able to calibrate such instruments [1].
Available commercial software do not suit the needs
of most metrological laboratories that work at higher
levels of accuracy and precision; therefore, the need of
software implementation arises at the first place in these
laboratories. In addition, the importance of software va-
lidation becomes one of their main requirements due to
the lack of comprehensive validation guidance materials
In the National Metrology Institutes (NMIs), traceabil-
ity for any automatic system is based on a set of refer-
ence standards linked to the primary standards [1]. In the
fields of electrical and electronic standards, the parame-
ters are voltage, current and resistance [3]. Consequently,
it has been essential for NIS as the primary laboratory for
DC electrical metrology in Egypt to construct a special
programmable measurement system for the calibration of
both NIS and customers’ DC voltage reference standards.
This system has been built as the inclusive and consistent
construction that, from the national standards, dissemi-
nates the traceability to all the DC voltage reference stan-
dards under calibration. NIS DC electrical laboratory has
a Josephson Voltage Standard (JVS) as the primary
standard for DC voltage and a group of zener diode ref-
erence standards as the DC voltage reference standard.
This group includes two sets: the first set is the Fluke
734A and the second set is the Fluke 7000.
NIS electrical laboratory as well as high voltage labo-
ratory have different types and models of sourcing in-
struments such as the Fluke 5720A, and the Wavetek
9100 reference calibrators; adding to measuring instru-
ments such as Fluke 8508A, Fluke 8846A and HP 3458A
digital multimeters (DMMs). Therefore, one more auto-
matic calibration system using LabVIEW software has
been built at NIS to control and calibrate the high sensi-
tive electrical sourcing and measuring instruments.
This paper introduces two new automatic calibration
systems that rely on Labview, Where both software and
hardware of the systems are fully presented. The manual
and automatic calibration results of calibrating 10 V
outputs of seven Zener Diode units are introduced
against the reference unit of the first set (Fluke 734A). In
addition, a comparison between the manual and auto-
matic calibration results of the sourcing and measuring
instruments is introduced.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. JSEA
Electrical Metrology Applications of LabVIEW Software
2. System Hardware
The first system for calibrating zener diode reference
standards consists of the NIS two zener diode reference
standards sets; the first set is the Fluke 734A zener diode
standard which includes four 732B separate units and the
second set is the Fluke 7000 voltage standard which in-
cludes four non separate units in one enclosure with four
different output terminals. Adding to the 320A Data
Proof low thermal scanner, 8.5 digit HP 3458A highly
sensitive recently calibrated digital multimeter (DMM)
and a PC controlled by General Purpose Interface Bus
(GPIB/IEEE-488). One traceable zener diode of the first
set (Fluke 732B with serial number, S.N. 8140009)
which has been calibrated via our JVS is used as the ref-
erence unit (RU) to calibrate the other seven units of
zener diodes as units under test (UUT1, UUT2··· UUT7).
Figure 1 illustrates the first system schematic diagram.
The main operative instrument in this system is the low
thermal scanner which used for scanning a number of
instruments without physically changing the polarity of a
device under test [4]. The Data Proof 320A (DP 320A)
low thermal scanner with extremely low thermal offsets
is ideal for automating precision measurements. It is re-
motely controlled through the IEEE-488 interface [4].
This versatile dual scanner has 32 input channels and two
pairs of output lines (A & B) which makes it suitable for
a wide variety of uses. Each unit of the first and the sec-
ond sets has been connected to the scanner through
shielded cables. The output lines A & B of the DP 320A
scanner have been connected to the High & Low termi-
nals of the HP 3458A DMM through the same type of
shielded cables, where the Low terminals of output lines
A & B are shorted together. In order to calibrate the
seven UUTs via the RU, the eight channels of the DP
320A scanner (from channel1 to channel8) have been
used. Before using these eight channels in the calibration,
they have been checked for their intended purpose. This
check has been performed using the third configuration
described in [5]. The reference unit and the seven under
test Zener Diode units are listed in Table 1 with their
models, their serial numbers and the scanner eight chan-
The second hardware is configured by the operator in
relation with specific needs and several types of calibra
tors and DMMs acting either as reference units or as
units under calibration. Figure 2 illustrates the block
Figure 1. Schematic diagram of the zener diode reference standard automatic calibration system.
Table 1. Reference Unit and the seven under test units, their models, their serial numbers and the scanner eight channels.
Zener Diode Units Models Serial Numbers Scanner Channel Number (1 - 8)
(RU) Fluke 734B 8140009 4
(UUT1) Fluke 734B 8140006 1
(UUT2) Fluke 734B 8140007 2
(UUT3) Fluke 734B 8140008 3
(UUT4) Fluke 7000 45987 5
(UUT5) Fluke 7000 45988 6
(UUT6) Fluke 7000 41884 7
(UUT7) Fluke 7000 45989 8
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. JSEA
Electrical Metrology Applications of LabVIEW Software 115
Figure 2. Block diagram of the automatic calibration system.
diagram of the implemented system, it consists of a pro-
grammable calibrator as a reference standard source for
voltages, currents and resistances, a DMM as a reference
standard measuring instrument, and a PC controlled by
General Purpose Interface Bus (GPIB). The system is
based on the PC equipped with a GPIB board which is
used to automatically control the calibrator and to get the
measurements of the DMM.
The temperature and relative humidity of the calibra-
tion laboratory were adjusted and fairly controlled to (23
± 1)˚C and (50% ± 10%) respectively.
3. System Software
The zener diode reference standards calibration system
software as well as the sourcing and measuring electrical
instruments have been built using LabVIEW graphical
language. This software is constructed to control the
calibration system, eliminate the operator’s errors, allow
statistical proceeding of the results in rather short time
and generate a complete visual statistical information
report from the performed calibration. The standard pro-
cedures for development of software use the V-Model for
software life-cycle. This V-Model includes the software
requirements specification, functional specification, de-
sign specification, testing, and implementation [6]. The
development principle of V-Model shown in Figure 3
has been followed in the building of the calibration sys-
tem software. Preparing the requirements’ specifications
is a significant part of the software life-cycle develop-
ment. The function specification is more comprehensive
than the requirements specification and must include full
explanation of each function. After problem identifica-
tion and requirements declaration, the software can be
designed. In the implementation step, the code is created
regarding the agreed design of the software. After per-
forming module and integration testing the operational
testing is finally performed to fulfill the development
Figure 3. V-Model for software life-cycle.
principle of the V-model software life-cycle. The follow-
ing procedures will clearly explain this development
3.1. Requirements Specification
In this part, the description of the problem and the ap-
proach which will be followed to solve this problem is
recognized. The Requirements Specification is the input
to the software design process. Here, the problem which
has to be solved by the software development is the per-
forming of the automatic calibration systems of the zener
diode reference standards as well as electrical sourcing
and measuring instruments. The followed approach is
outlining the main functions which have to be carried out.
The first software functions are:
Preliminary warming-up of the calibration systems.
Controlling the scanner to choose the specified UUT
which will be calibrated by the RU in sequence re-
quired by their calibration procedures (in forward and
reverse directions).
Controlling the digital multimeter to read the differ-
ence between the output voltages of the RU and the
specified UUT in both directions.
Collecting the measured data indicated by the digital
Performing calculations based on the measured data
regarding the formulas imposed by the calibration
Generating the measurements report and graphical
visualization of the outputs.
In the same manner, the second software functions are
warming up of the calibration system, controlling the
calibrator’s output, adjusting the DMM to read, collect-
ing the DMM measured data, and generating the final
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. JSEA
Electrical Metrology Applications of LabVIEW Software
measurements report.
3.2. Functions Specification
Functions specification illustrates how each requirement
is to be met. Adding together, it should emphasize any
inconsistency if complete agreement is not realistic. The
functional specification covers [6,7]:
Software and hardware environment.
Description of the software’s functions.
Input and the output data.
Operator’s interface to the system.
Special restrictions that will be applied to the system.
Software management.
Finally, the function specifications will cover all the
details of how the end-user of the automatic system is to
interact with this system. Eventually, each function de-
scribed will require a test to prove compliance with the
specification. Therefore, this document will be used as
the input to the functional test.
3.3. Software Design
The software design is a record of how the requirements
will be implemented. The design document may use state
diagrams, flowcharts or formal methods to describe the
software design. In this case, LabVIEW is used as the
development language. It is a rapid development system
and provides useful documentation tools that can be used
in the development of the design document. The design
document includes the program structure on the base of
LabVIEW Virtual Instruments (VI) hierarchy, module
(VI) design, LabVIEW coding conventions and Lab-
VIEW tools [8]. Each module defined in this design will
require a test to verify compliance with the requirements.
3.4. Implementation and Testing
When the software design is finished the software can be
fully implemented. The code is created concerning de-
cided design of the software. LabVIEW is a graphical
programming language and states transition diagram to
follow the coding conversion declared in the design. The
module test is executed to prove that each module (VI)
requirement in the design document is fulfilled. The ex-
cellent test will illustrate that the module achieves the
designed function. The functional test is performed as
well. This test level is higher than the level of the module
test. It tests how the modules work together concerning
functions defined in the functional specification. More-
over, it tests the operator interfaces and output results for
stability and accuracy. After module and functional suc-
cessfully testing, the operational testing is performed by
implementing the LabVIEW software in the calibration
system. It is preferred to perform the functional tests
once more in the final version of the LabVIEW software.
3.5. LabVIEW Front Panel and Block Diagram
NIS LabVIEW software for calibrating zener diode ref-
erence standards as well as electrical sourcing and meas-
uring instruments have been built following the applica-
tion of the previous procedures. LabVIEW consists of
two main components: the front panel and the block dia-
gram; besides, it also contains a comprehensive library
for data collection, analysis, presentation and storage.
Program execution is determined by the structure of a
graphical block diagram on which the programmer con-
nects different function nodes by drawing wires. These
wires propagate variables and any node can execute as
soon as all its input data become available. The front
panel is used to interact with the user when the program
is running. User can control the program, change inputs,
and see data updated in real time [9,10]. The front panel
and the block diagram of the automatic calibration sys-
tems have been carried out. Uncertainty of measurement
is the doubt that exists about the result of any measure-
ment. For every measurement—even the most care-
ful—there is always a margin of doubt. International me-
trology organizations recommend that uncertainties
should have two types, “Type A” and “Type B”, based
on the method by which they are evaluated [11]. Where,
“Type A” is the uncertainty using statistics (usually from
repeated readings). While, “Type B” evaluation is the
uncertainty estimate from any other information. The
combined uncertainty equals to the root sum square of all
the uncertainty contributions. The expanded uncertainty
is obtained by multiplying the combined uncertainty by
coverage factor “k”. The value of coverage factor gives
the confidence level for the expanded uncertainty. Most
commonly, the overall uncertainty is scaled by using the
coverage factor k = 2, to give a level of confidence of
approximately 95% [11,12]. The new automatic calibra-
tion systems have the facility to automatically calculate
the measurements repeatability, store the data, record,
and report the calibration results. Thirty readings have
been automatically taken and transferred to the excel
sheets by the software. For example, Figure 4 illustrates
the automatic zener diode reference standards calibration
system front panel. It includes the exact time and date of
performing the calibration adding to the different (Type
B) uncertainty components which contribute in the un-
certainty budget. The uncertainty of the calibration mea-
surements has been estimated based on the ISO/IEC
17025 [12] and the expanded uncertainty has been re-
ported by the software.
4. Results and Software Validation
The two automatic systems have been constructed for
calibrating the Zener Diode Reference Standards (1.018
V and 10 V outputs), as well as the electrical sourcing
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. JSEA
Electrical Metrology Applications of LabVIEW Software
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. JSEA
tion is more rapidly than the manual procedures per-
forming. What is more, in the automatic mode, the op-
erator full attendance is not needed as in the manual
mode and a better calibration procedure is guaranteed. In
addition, to the system functionality test and the impor-
tance of achieving the measurements reliability guarantee
in metrology science [13], the two systems have been
4.1. Software Validation of First System
In order to validate the first system for its specific pur-
pose, it has been utilized in calibrating the NIS Zener
Diode Reference Standards Group at 10 V output and the
results have been compared with those obtained by their
manual calibration. Then, the calibration measurements
uncertainty in both modes has been evaluated and com-
pared by (automatically and manually) testing the system
under the same calibration conditions ten times, in five
consecutive days. Each day ten observations have been
taken to evaluate the average value. The same scanner,
DMM, connecting cables and the same environmental
conditions of the lab have been used in both manual and
automatic calibrations. The repeatability evaluated as a
1σ type (A) uncertainty and in between days variance in
voltages has been considered. Figures 5 and 6 show the
Figure 4. Front Panel of the zener diode reference standard
automatic calibration system.
and measuring instruments. By functionality testing of
the systems hardware and software, it is fairly demon-
strated that, the automatic calibration procedures execu-
Manual Mode M e asur em ent s
y = 9E-08x
- 1E-06x
+ 5E-06x
- 7E-06x + 10
= 1
y = -9E -08x
+ 1E-06x
- 6E -06x
+ 1E -05x + 10
= 1
y = -9E -08x
+ 1E -06x
- 5E-06x
+ 1E -05x + 10
= 1
10. 0000120
10. 0000130
10. 0000140
10. 0000150
10. 0000160
10. 0000170
10. 0000180
10. 0000190
10. 0000200
Number o f Days
UUT Output Voltage (V)
Figure 5. Five days manual output voltage of the UUT1, UUT2 and UUT3.
A ut omat ic M ode M easurem ent s
y = -7E-08x
+ 9E-07x
- 4E -06x
+ 8E -06x + 10
= 1
y = -4E-08x
+ 6E-07x
- 3E-06x
+ 6E-0 6x + 1 0
= 1
y = 1E-07x
- 1E -06x
+ 5E-0 6x
- 7E -06x + 10
Number o f Days
UUT Outp ut V oltag e (V)
Figure 6. Five days automatic output voltage of the UUT1, UUT2 and UUT3.
Electrical Metrology Applications of LabVIEW Software
five days data of the UUT1, UUT2 and UUT3 in the
manual mode and automatic mode respectively. Table 2
presents the estimated uncertainty budget of UUT1 cali-
bration results while, Table 3 illustrates the automatic
and manual 10 V output calibration results with their ex-
panded uncertainty values (at 95% confidence level, k = 2).
4.2. Software Validation of the Second System
The second automatic system has been built for cali-
brating NIS as well as customers’ high sensitive calibra-
tors and DMMs. To validate the programmable calibra-
tion system for its specific purpose, the Fluke 5720A,
Wavetek 9100 calibrators, HP 3458A, and Fluke 8508A,
8846A DMMs have been calibrated in both manual and
automatic modes for all their functions (voltage, current,
resistance) and all their ranges. All automatically ob-
tained results have been compared with those manually
obtained. The calibration measurements repeatability in
both modes are then evaluated and compared by testing
the system under the same environmental conditions (both
automatically and manually. The repeatability evaluated
as a 1σ type (A) uncertainty [14].
Table 4 shows samples of the manual and automatic
calibration results for different electrical sourcing and
measuring instruments. Samples of these results are il-
lustrated from Figures 7-11.
As shown in Figures 5 and 6, the drift rates of UUT1,
UUT2, UUT3 average outputs have been calculated
manually and automatically using quadratic polynomial
fit. The drift rates of average outputs in the automatic
mode are better than the manual ones. In Table 3, it is
clearly shown that the automatic calibration results for
the 10 V outputs of the under test seven Zener Diode
units are very close to their corresponding manual results.
Furthermore, it is quite verified that, the evaluated un-
certainty values in automatic mode are smaller than the
values manually obtained. On the other hand, Table 4
and Figures (7)- (11) clearly show that the automatic
results of the second system are very close to their cor-
responding manual results. Moreover, their evaluated
repeatability values in automatic mode are smaller than
the values manually obtained. As a result, a full compati-
bility and an improved repeatability have been achieved
with measurements made by the first and the second
automatic system.
Table 2. Uncertainty budget of UUTs calibration results.
Sources of Uncertainty Type of Uncertainty Combined Uncertainty
RU uncertainty from its
calibration certificate (U1) Type B 1.00E07
Linearity deviation of DMM (U2) Type B 0.058E6
Temperature deviation of RU Zener (U3) Type B 0.023E06
Temperature deviation of UUT Zener (U4) Type B 0.046E06
Drift in RU value (U5) Type B 0.058E6
Thermal emf in calibrating UUT (U6) Type B 0.058E6
Auto Manual
Repeatability (U7) Type A
4.32E08 6.41E08
Reproducibility (U8) Type A Auto Manual
Table 3. Automatic & manual 10 V output calibration results with their expanded uncertainty.
Zener Automatic Calibration Results
of 10 V Output (V)
Manual Calibration Results
of 10 V Output (V)
UUT1 10.0000164 ± 0.50E6 10.0000164 ± 0.56E6
UUT2 10.0000143 ± 0.36E6 10.0000142 ± 0.61E6
UUT3 10.0000187 ± 0.51E6 10.0000187 ± 0.62E6
UUT4 09.9999479 ± 0.81E6 09.9999450 ± 1.72E6
UUT5 09.9999557 ± 0.61E6 09.9999557 ± 0.62E6
UUT6 10.0000218 ± 0.46E6 10.0000222 ± 1.88E6
UUT7 09.9999529 ± 0.63E6 09.9999529 ± 0.66E6
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. JSEA
Electrical Metrology Applications of LabVIEW Software 119
Table 4. Samples of the automatic and manual calibration results for different electrical sourcing and measuring instruments.
Manual mode Automatic mode
Electrical Instrument Ranges
Value Type A Value Type A
DC Volt 1000 V 999.90096 1.63E4 999.90087 1.22E4
AC Volt 1000 V @ 50 Hz 999.90010 5.27E3 999.90260 2.69E3
DC Current 2 A 1.9998098 2.07E6 1.9997699 1.64E6
AC Current 1 A @ 50 Hz 0.9971814 4.23E4 0.9997919 2.13E5
Fluke 5720a
Calibrator @
Fluke 8508A DMM
Resistance 1 K 1.0016791 4.48E4 1.0016599 9.41E5
DC Volt 100 V 99.999329 8.54E6 99.999506 5.71E6
AC Volt 100 V @ 1 kHz 99.897468 5.25E5 99.896279 4.72E5
DC Current 1 A 0.9999236 4.85E06 0.9999474 1.60E06
AC Current 1 A @ 1kHz 1.0000061 6.60E06 1.0000855 7.98E07
Fluke 5720a
Calibrator @
Fluke 8846A DMM
Resistance 100 99.993945 6.61E05 99.973403 5.28E05
DC Volt 10 V 10.000008 7.48E06 10.000002 4.83E06
AC Volt 10 V @ 1 kHz 9.9893166 8.04E06 9.9893268 4.22E06
DC Current 10 mA 9.9969120 4.93E08 9.9971854 2.22E08
AC Current 100 mA @ 50 Hz 99.991467 9.17E07 99.991469 7.23E07
Wavetek 9100
Calibrator @
Hp 3458A DMM
Resistance 100 99.993945 6.61E05 99.993403 5.28E05
Figure 7. Manual and automatic values of 10 V-DC.
Figure 8. Manual and automatic values of 1000 V@50
Figure 9. Manual and automatic values of 2 A-DC.
Figure 10. Manual and automatic values of 100 mA@50
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. JSEA
Electrical Metrology Applications of LabVIEW Software
Figure 11. Manual and automatic values of 100 resis-
5. Conclusion
Two automatic calibration systems using LabVIEW gra-
phical language have been built at NIS. The first one is
performed for calibrating DC Zener Diode reference
standards while the second one is implemented for cali-
brating the electrical sourcing and measuring instruments.
Both systems have been designed and implemented as
consistent construction from the national electrical ref-
erence standards that can disseminate the traceability of
all the instruments under calibration. The new automatic
systems enable fast and reliable measurement function
including statistical proceeding, measurement results vi-
sualization on the screen and generation of measure-
ment report. This significantly improves the measure-
ment process as well as the calibration process. The soft-
ware validation process for the new automated systems
has shown the functionality of the two systems and a full
compatibility with calibration measurements made ma-
nually and by the automated systems. Adding to, per-
forming rather enhanced uncertainty results in the auto-
matic operation. The new automatic calibration systems
are now in use for the calibrations of both the NIS and
the customer DC Zener Diode reference standards as
well as the electrical sourcing and measuring instru-
[1] U. Poliano, G. C. Bosco and M. Lanzillotti, “Generalized
Automatic System for AC/DC Transfer AC Voltage and
AC Current Measurements,” IEEE Transactions on In-
strumentation and Measurement, Vol. 55, No. 5, 2006, pp.
1747-1751. doi:10.1109/TIM.2006.880958
[2] R. Flegar and T. Tasic, “Software Validation in Meas-
urement & Testing,” INCOLAB Conference, Prague, 4
December 2003.
[3] S. K. Sharma and V. N. Ojha, “Performance Evaluation
and Software Validation of Automatic Bank of DC Ref-
erence Standard,” Journal of Scientific & Industrial Re-
search, Vol. 64, No. 7, 2005, pp. 487-490.
[5] S. K. Jaiswal, “Complete Characterization of a Low Ther-
mal Scanner for Automatic Voltage Measurement,” MA-
PAN-Journal of Metrology Society of India, Vol. 23, No.
1, 2008, pp. 31-38
[6] J. Mountford and G. I. Parkin, “Best Practice in Software
Development—A Case Study in LabVIEW Illustrated by
the UHTBB Safety System Monitor Project,” NPL Report
DEM-ES, Teddington, 2007.
[7] I. Hadzhieva-Borisova, “Software for Automated AC-DC
Measurement System,” International Scientific Confer-
ence Computer Science, Sofia, 2008, pp. 528-532
[8] National Instruments, “LabVIEW Development Guide-
lines,” 2003.
[9] National Instruments, “Introduction to LabVIEW,” Part
No. 323668B-01, 2003.
[10] National Instruments, “LabVIEW Quick Start Guid,” Part
No. 321527B-01, 1998.
[11] W. A. Everett, “Calibration: Philosophy in Practice,” 2nd
Edition, Fluke Corporation, Everett, 1994.
[12] United Kingdom Accreditation Service, “The Expression
of Uncertainty and Confidence in Measurement,” 2007.
[13] C. Capua, D. Grillo and E. Romeo, “The Implementation
of an Automatic Measurement Station of the Determina-
tion of the Calibration Intervals for a DMM,” IEEE In-
ternational Conference on Virtual Environments, Human-
Computer Interfaces and Measurement Systems, Spain,
10-12 July 2006, pp. 58-62.
[14] Saudi Arabian Standards Organization (SASO), “Guide to
the Expression of Uncertainty in Measurement,” 2006.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. JSEA