A low cost, high performance pc based integrated real-time motion control development system.
The control of electrical drives, or motion control, is important in modern industry. In order to satisfy the requirements of industry, it is important for tertiary institutions to produce graduates skilled in this field. The theoretical content of a typical electrical engineering course will prepare students to tackle design and offline simulation of a digital motion controller. However, to gain an in-depth understanding of the field, students need to be able to implement and test their designs in practice. The complete design process of a digital motion controller is an inherently lengthy process requiring a number of diverse skills, for example microprocessor based hardware and software design. While hardware design issues can be minimised by a choice of a commercially available controller board, the coding of real-time software for a complex controller can pose a steep learning curve. At the undergraduate level, students seldom will possess sufficient practical expertise to fully implement a challenging motion control design in the limited time frames allocated for such projects. This thesis presents a complete rapid prototyping environment for the design of motion control, the Control System Development Environment (CSDE). The CSDE allows a seamless progression of a motion control project through all stages, from initial design and simulation, through real-time implementation to final online tuning and validation. Users are freed from all low-level software and hardware design issues. In the context of undergraduate design projects, the CSDE allows students to design, simulate and prototype challenging solutions in the limited time available. Thus, students can gain in-depth, system level expertise in the design of motion control without being hampered by low-level design issues. The CSDE has been successfully tested by a number of undergraduate students at the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Natal. In particular, the CSDE's effectiveness has been demonstrated by its application during two prize winning final year design projects.