Hardware-In-The-Loop (HIL) simulation is a specially designed technology that helps you to test the behavior of your control algorithms without physical prototypes. HIL is a type of real-time simulation, which means it creates a virtual real-time environment which contains a model of your physical system, and an external system controller. This technique is the standard for developing and testing the most complex control, protection, and monitoring systems. HIL simulation allows you to effectively test your controllers on a real-time plant simulator that acts as a digital twin of the whole system or its parts to benefit from lower cost and functionality.
Primarily, HIL testing has been used only in the automotive and aerospace industry, because it was considered expensive. Now, it is well known that HIL systems provide superior insight into how an embedded system will behave, and investments in HIL systems often pay off in just a few months. That is the main reason why HIL simulation nowadays is widespread in numerous industries and devices, such as communications, semiconductors, and medical devices.
How does Hardware-In-The-Loop simulation work?
HIL simulation lets you test your embedded code without system hardware. Through Hardware-In-The-Loop testing the physical plant, sensors, and actuators are replaced by a precisely equivalent computer model, running in real-time on a simulator appropriately equipped with inputs and outputs. All these components are capable of interfacing with control systems and other equipment. The controller hardware contains the controller software generated from the controller model. On the other side, target hardware contains code for the physical system that is generated from the plant model. Practically, through the process, you gradually replace elements of your system environment with the actual parts of the hardware.
If you want to incorporate all these complex components into a well-functioning testing system, you need to have an excellent knowledge and understanding of measurement technology, measurement instruments, communication protocols, as well as real-time computers and model execution.
This was one of main reasons why HIL Fundamentals was born. This course is designed for you to learn the basics of HIL hardware and software techniques, as well as give you hands on experience creating models and running tests in the Typhoon HIL environment. If you want to learn high-demand skills, come join us for our HIL Fundamentals Course here, or feel free to contact us for more information.
What are the benefits of using Hardware-In-The-Loop simulation?
Testing of control software has traditionally been carried out directly on physical equipment with real/actual power. This practice was very expensive, inefficient, hard to setup and maintain, and potentially unsafe. To deliver high-quality controller software, test engineers replaced these traditional testing methods with HIL simulation. This technique offers a lot of benefits:
Cost | Compared to power lab testing, HIL requires less investment and maintenance, and there are no costs related to potential equipment damage.
Safety | When working in a simulated environment, there is no risk of damaging equipment or endangering people while performing tests.
Fidelity | Using a high-fidelity real-time simulation executed on an FPGA ensures that the controller tested on HIL will perform just as well when connected to real physical equipment.
Flexibility | A simulated environment enables testing of a wide range of scenarios, tuning parameters on the fly, testing faulty conditions, all without risks associated with testing in a power lab.
Automation | It is possible to write an unlimited number of automated test scripts that can be run overnight or for a few days to collect results without the need for supervision.
Speed | An agile methodology based on continuous testing allows for quick feedback on the changes implemented in the control software, and immediate fixes in case suboptimal performance is observed.
Time | Time can be saved both while building and utilizing the setups, which brings the product to market sooner.
There is no doubt that Hardware-In-The-Loop simulation significantly improves the process of testing control algorithms. This type of simulation enables comprehensively tested controllers, with reduced risk, cost, and overall time of testing.