Real-Time Freedom for Motor Control Engineers

Giving motor control engineers real freedom to design motor control firmware does not sound like a particularly radical concept. But for many, the traditional approach to development is restrictive, time-consuming, and opaque.

The heart of the problem lies in the need to create C code. Hand coding is a skilled, labor-intensive, and error-prone task. Enlisting the help of a specialist programmer adds time and cost to the equation. What’s more, the programmer is unlikely to share the engineer’s detailed appreciation of the application and its control algorithms. Equally, the engineer will probably not benefit from line-by-line understanding of the code supplied.

The alternative is to employ an automatic code generation tool. However, many engineers find themselves struggling with an expensive, sluggish, model-based solution that makes iterative design changes painfully slow. As microcontrollers offer ever greater functionality, and applications become increasingly sophisticated, these limitations are magnified.

Altair Embed™ was designed to resolve the C code dilemma. With Embed, engineers no longer need C code literacy or programming support. Working instead with the familiar language of visual dataflow block diagrams, they enjoy unparalleled freedom to explore and test their control algorithms in real-time. Fast simulation and immediate feedback facilitate straightforward, on-screen evaluation of a comprehensive array of parameters.

Embed’s hardware-in-the-loop functionality is particularly valuable for motor control applications. Because algorithms never work as expected the first time around, engineers need feedback. Traditional C coders provide this by setting breakpoints that stop execution of the code. This gives engineers a chance to assess the relevant variables. However, with motor control requiring continuous updating of variables at 10,000 times per second or faster, that’s not a viable approach. Instead, Embed provides comprehensive insight into system behavior by enabling engineers to effectively place virtual oscilloscope probes anywhere in their block diagrams.

As a genuinely disruptive C code generator, Embed has attracted wide-ranging support from experts worldwide. Advocates include Prof. Dr. Duco Pulle, CEO of EMsynergy and guest professor at RWTH Aachen University in Germany. Duco’s work includes co-writing ‘Applied Control of Electrical Drives’ and ‘Advanced Control of Electrical Drives.’ In the process, this talented collective has created a comprehensive ‘cookbook’ of applications that enable users to fast track problem-solving methodologies, and cut the time it takes to get machines spinning.

In terms of the sheer diversity of motor and control applications that can be supported, their work builds on a toolbox that is already well ahead of competitive solutions. It includes remote labs, which give users the ability to explore problems in real-time, with real motors, regardless of where they are located.

Throughout the engineering sector, advanced motor control design is playing an increasingly important role. But the potential of Embed to empower engineers extends right across the embedded system domain. By sweeping away so many barriers, we’re opening this growing market to a new wave of dynamic SMEs. In fact, with many larger organizations tied to legacy systems, the playing field isn’t just being levelled. It is positively tilting in favor of our fast-growing family of Embed adopters.

Interested in joining the revolution? Download a free trial of Altair Embed.

Applied Control of Electrical Drives and Advanced Control of Electrical Drives are published by Springer (springer.com/gp).

Peter Darnell
Peter Darnell

About Peter Darnell

Peter is the Vice President of Model-Based Embedded Tools at Altair. He received a patent of efficient multi-core thread synchronization and worked on parallel vector code generation. He started Visual Solutions in 1989 to create VisSim, and soon began working closely with Texas Instruments. Peter continues his work on VisSim since the Altair acquisition of Visual Solutions in August 2014. He holds a degree in Physics from the University of Connecticut. Peter served on the ANSI X3J11 Committee to standardize the C language and is co-author of "C: A Software Engineering Approach" published by Springer [amazon.com/Software-Engineering-Approach-Peter-Darnell/dp/0387946756]