This is one of those posts that has had me stuck for days. I finally have to write it and move on. It is the confluence of several meetings I’ve had over the past couple of weeks plus a trend I’ve seen in digital development of control systems.

The MathWorks is a leading developer of mathematical computing tools. MatLab, called “the language of technical computing” by the company, is a programming environment for algorithm development, data analysis, visualization, and numeric computation. Simulink is a graphical environment for simulation and Model-Based Design of multidomain dynamic and embedded systems. Engineers can develop control algorithms in the environment generating targeted code in languages such as C and C++. In a recent interview on new products, product marketing people from MathWorks told me that they now have the ability to generate Structured Text–one of the four “languages” for programming programmable logic controllers (PLCs) under IEC 61131-3.

The trend is growing use of such techniques and technologies as digital control model development, simulation and especially “hardware in the loop” testing where you can get a test bed of hardware to check things out before building anything expensive. National Instruments has been talking about this for a couple of years. It also links to MathWorks in some areas.

When the MathWorks spokespeople told me about pushing more tools for control development into the PLC/PAC arena, I immediately thought of the two geographically close European control rivals B&R Automation (Austria) and Beckhoff Automation (Germany). Beckhoff told me that its new programming software will work with MatLab and Simulink accepting C++ code generated after development.

Now comes news that B&R Automation has been accepted into the MathWorks system integrator program. The company’s development environment, Automation Studio, connects to simulation and code generation tools to enable model-based development methods for machine manufacturing.

B&R Automation Studio Target for Simulink and Simulink PLC Coder enable users to bring their Simulink or Stateflow models to the B&R PLC or industrial computer quickly and efficiently. Algorithms modeled in Simulink are translated into PLC source code (ANSI-C or IEC 61131-3 ST); integrated into B&R’s development environment, Automation Studio; and transferred to the PLC or industrial computer at the push of a single button. This approach helps users to significantly cut down on development time to set up prototypes (on-target rapid prototyping).

MathWorks also announced the availability of xPC Target Turnkey, a fully assembled, real-time testing solution for rapid control prototyping and hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) simulation using Simulink. xPC Target Turnkey combines xPC Target from MathWorks with real-time target machines and I/O modules provided by Speedgoat GmbH  to form a complete real-time testing solution.

Configuring a real-time test system involves the time-consuming and resource-intensive process of evaluating software platforms, hardware technologies and options, and project requirements. xPC Target Turnkey is optimized for Simulink and xPC Target, enabling engineers to use a customized Speedgoat target machine to interactively design, prototype, and test Simulink models in real time with hardware. Each real-time target machine is assembled based on the project specific performance, I/O connectivity, and environmental requirements.

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