June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Computers in Education
13.336.1 - 13.336.12
Control System Plant Simulator: A Framework for Hardware-In-The-Loop Simulation
Control systems courses are common in undergraduate engineering programs. These courses focus on the design of the controller’s mathematical model but rarely have students explore the practical issues of implementing the controller. Real-time and embedded systems courses focus on these practical issues with students implementing controllers for simplified Hardware-in-the- Loop plants such as a digital servo motor. Designing controllers for complex physical plants is difficult due to prohibitive costs or the risk of accidents caused by faulty controllers. These difficulties can be overcome if a simulator replaces the hardware-in-the-loop physical plant.
We designed and implemented the Control System Plant Simulator (CSPS) as a flexible framework for simulating plant models in control system implementation projects. The framework allows the user to model continuous and discrete plants defined as transfer functions or systems of state-space equations. This paper describes the design of the CSPS framework by highlighting the expansion and modification flexibility it provides with its operating system, non-real-time user interface, and physical device abstraction layers. The CSPS framework has advantages over commercial tools that can provide a hardware-in-the-loop plant simulation. The framework’s scope of usage is much narrower than the commercial tools making it easier to learn how to use and modify. Also, we distribute the framework as an open-source project making it readily available for use in any course without licensing, and ensuring that deeper and more complex customizations are possible. The paper concludes with a discussion of our successful experience using the framework in real-time systems course projects, and porting to two operating environments (standard Windows XP and Ardence RTX Real-Time Extensions for Windows), two user interfaces (C-based text, Visual Basic GUI), and two data acquisition devices (USB data acquisition, simulated multi-channel IO device).
The popularity and importance of automated controllers has grown rapidly over the past few decades1. The subject of Control systems has grown in importance in education as well. There are numerous challenges educators must face when teaching a control systems course. Students learn far more from their studies when they have an actual laboratory experiment to help relate the abstract concepts of engineering to real life design problems2. While simplified physical systems such as the inverted pendulum or the digital servo are common in academic environments, design for more practical systems is difficult due to the prohibitive costs or danger associated with the equipment involved3.
Simulation of the entire system enables the designer to see what is going to happen before spending considerable effort implementing a design or putting expensive equipment – and potentially human life – at risk with an untested controller. However, one cannot ignore the
Chandler, D., & Vallino, J. (2008, June), Control System Plant Simulator: A Framework For Hardware In The Loop Simulation Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3358
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