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Rapid Controls Prototyping Techniques

Rapid control prototyping enables engineers to test the operation of new controls in real applications early in the development cycle. The prototyping platform can be implemented in several ways. Often, the easiest solution is to simply use an existing ECU and add the new functionality by utilizing spare I/O pins in existing software. This works fine if the ECU has the spare I/O, CPU resources, and memory required to implement the new functionality, but these constraints often present obstacles to innovative research and development.


Many people would prefer to use an open hardware architecture, like National Instruments cRIO, to provide a more flexible and expandable solution for rapid prototyping in a real research environment. The NI cRIO chassis with NI’s large selection of c-series I/O cards provide a very powerful and flexible hardware platform to adapt to future research projects. Model-based system design practices provide a scalable and adaptable software platform that can quickly be deployed for prototype system testing.


Another challenge with prototyping on a production ECU method is building a development toolchain that provides the appropriate level of abstraction so the researcher can stay focused on finding an optimal control solution. It can be very frustrating for the researcher to have to stop thinking about the problem they are trying to solve and go get help from an embedded programmer or work with several code generation, compilation, and download tools before they can test their new algorithm on the target. Typically, researchers want to work in MATLAB/Simulink and be able to quickly deploy and test control strategies.


We listened to our customers that say that what they want is a tool that allows them to create their control models in Simulink and quickly build and deploy those models to NI cRIO hardware for immediate testing. This led to the development of LHP Panthera RCP Suite, which provides the Simulink experience on NI hardware. The Panthera RCP Suite supports all of the NI Linux-RT cRIO controllers and any combination of c-series hardware modules by allowing customization of the FPGA with the Panthera FPGA toolkit.


Once the hardware is configured, the Panthera Simulink blockset provides access to all of the available I/O and automates the build and deploy process to optimize the workflow. After changing the control model in Simulink, simply hit “ctrl-b” in Simulink to trigger the C code generation, compilation, deployment and application launch on the cRIO chassis.


With LHP’s integrated toolchain, including Panthera RCP Suite and our hardware platforms, you can have your prototype running in application today.

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