Quanser Integrates LabVIEW Control Design and Simulation Tools with Hands-On Controls Experiments
QNET DC Motor Control Trainer with NI ELVIS shown in the background. LabVIEW VI for motorl control design shown in foreground.
"The NI and Quanser solution gives the students a very intuitive feel for both the theoretical controls concepts and their application to the real world."
- Jacob Apkarian, Ph.D., Quanser Inc.
Designing multiple educational controls and mechatronics experiments that provide students with an intuitive understanding of physical concepts.
Developing modular experiments with an open software and hardware architecture based on NI LabVIEW control design and simulation tools.
Jacob Apkarian, Ph.D. - Quanser Inc.
Paul Karam - Quanser Inc.
Challenges of Control Engineering Education
There is an increasing demand for students trained in controls and mechatronics in a wide variety of industries such as automotive, aerospace, and manufacturing. In addition to a need for both undergraduate and graduate controls education, there is also a need for continuing education for practicing controls and mechatronics engineers.
Unfortunately, universities and colleges are faced with increased pressure to do “more with less” because of budget cuts and spending constraints. It has been found that hands-on experiments provide the best educational experience for students, but these are often expensive to design, maintain, and upgrade. These experiments are also often fixed in their mechanical and electrical design so that switching between experiments in a laboratory is inefficient and time consuming.
Developing Controls Experiments Using NI Software and Hardware
We have designed a series of desktop control and mechatronics experiments based on the LabVIEW control and simulation software and the NI ELVIS workstation. Each of the control experiments sits on top of a board that connects directly to NI ELVIS. The resulting experiments, part of the Quanser QNET series, are compact and truly plug and play, making it easy for students to set up and switch experiments within a matter of minutes. The QNET series includes a DC motor control experiment, a rotary inverted pendulum, and an HVAC experiment.
NI ELVIS is a data acquisition platform based on LabVIEW that is designed to provide an integrated and flexible environment that enhances measurement, design, and prototyping in an educational laboratory. It provides flexible connectivity and signal conditioning through interchangeable prototyping or experiment boards. It also includes built in short-circuit and high-voltage protection, variable power supplies, and signal function generation.
In addition, we have fully integrated our higher-end Controls Challenge experiments and Q4/Q8 hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) control boards with NI LabVIEW Real-Time for the RTX real-time operating system. In order to develop models and design controller, we also used the LabVIEW control design and simulation tools.
The Control Challenge experiments include various linear and rotary plants such as inverted pendulums and flexible beams. In addition, we have designed specialty Control Challenge plants such as multi DOF helicopters and robots.
We used LabVIEW Real-Time for RTX with the Quanser Q4 and Q8 HIL boards and the Control Challenge experiments to provide a single-computer desktop solution for real-time control prototyping and implementation. Students can run the user interface and control process as separate but parallel threads on the same processor in the desktop computer.
Educators can use both the QNET series for NI ELVIS and the Control Challenge experiments to teach modeling, control system design, analysis, and implementation. The control laws that are covered range from simple SISO controllers such as P.I.D. and lead/lag compensation to more complex MIMO controllers such as LQR and H-infinity. Also, with these experiments, we can teach intelligent control design approaches based on neural networks and fuzzy logic.
Software Development Using LabVIEW Control and Simulation Software
We developed a series of design and analysis tasks, simulations, and experiments using the LabVIEW Control Design Toolkit and LabVIEW Simulation Module, which guide students through the entire control design and testing process.
The LabVIEW Control Toolkit provides high-level graphical design and analysis tools for control systems. Students can use the toolkit to develop the plant model and controller and then analyze the predicted closed-loop step response in terms of rise time, overshoot, settling time, and steady-state error.
Students can use the LabVIEW Simulation Module to represent plants, filters, and controllers in a block diagram form within the LabVIEW environment. Wires within the simulation mode can indicate direction of data flow for either feedback or feedforward systems.
We use the simulation module to fit the open-loop parametric plant model to the measured data. The students continuously adjust the model parameters until the simulated response matches the measured response. Students then design and test the controller on both the simulated system and the actual experimental hardware.
Students use the simulation module for both off-line simulation and implementation of the control systems. We used the signal generation VIs in our simulations along with transfer function representations of plants and filters. Additionally, we used submodels on the diagram to represent controllers.
Educational Benefits for the Student
The NI and Quanser solution gives the students a very intuitive feel for both the theoretical controls concepts and their application to the real world. Students can take advantage of the tight integration of the LabVIEW user-interface with both off-line simulation and real-time controller implementation and measurements. Students can change the model or controller parameters on the fly and instantly observe the results. In addition, using LabVIEW graphical programming for the control system analysis and design, we can develop elegant and flexible user interfaces to guide students through the entire design process.
The integration of Quanser QNET Engineering Trainers with NI ELVIS provides economical and modular controls experiments for control and mechatronics laboratories. The integration of the Quanser Controls Challenge experiments and HIL boards with LabVIEW Real-Time helps students learn about advanced control problems and real-time implementation. Students can take advantage of the multiple hands-on experiments and lessons to prepare for challenging jobs in industry.
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