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Connecting Tools and Processes

Mike Jensen

Mike Jensen

Posted Jan 13, 2012

Searching the Internet is like having a giant, international reference library at your fingertips. If you know what you’re looking for and have a reasonable idea of where to look, with a little patience you can usual find some pretty interesting material related to your search topic – okay, you can also find a bunch of stuff you aren’t looking for, but as I often say, “That’s a topic for a different discussion…” I occasionally search for information on mechatronic system simulation – just to see what new challenges design teams face. One of my recent searches turned-up a whitepaper on automotive electrical system simulation. And as I started reading the paper, I smiled my “there it is again” smile…

It seems most folks who write papers on mechatronic system simulation feel the need to remind readers of an obvious fact: modern systems are complicated. You usually don’t have to read too far into the opening paragraphs of a paper before being reminded “…modern systems are increasing in complexity…” I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve occasionally used similar phraseology when writing papers, datasheets, and brochures. While it’s a well-worn and very tired marketing phrase, and despite being painstakingly obvious (particularly if you are the one doing the designing), increasing system complexity is a fact of engineering life. And with compute power enabling better and more advanced system control, engineers are encouraged to work on even more complex ideas. What is complex today will be considered simple tomorrow.

In a way it’s a bit ironic that, in many cases, mechatronic system engineering gets more complex in order to simplify and improve the end-user experience. Stated another way, the degree of design difficulty goes up in order to reduce the degree of use difficulty. It’s actually kind of a neat thing if you think about it: we’re making complex technology approachable, and in some cases invisible, to folks who really aren’t interested in the technical details. They just want what they buy or use to work. But there comes a point where even the best design team needs a bit of design help, a time when interactions between system components are too complicated to manually design and track. A system development flow that used to require a single design tool now needs multiple tools. And system complexity factors drive the need for multiple tools to automatically share design data. Maybe a multi-physics hardware simulator needs to talk to a control algorithm. Perhaps a test development program needs to communicate with an electronic circuit simulator. Or a mechanical simulation might need to swap information with an electronic circuit simulation, which in turn needs to share details with a control algorithm — all under the watchful eye of a test program. The design tool combinations and interactions can easily get as complex as the systems.

I recently joined a customer conference call to talk about SystemVision linked-up with software control algorithms through SystemVision conneXion (SVX). The customer just wanted to run their hardware design with the controlling software. I wrote a blog post about this configuration several months ago. While the SVX technology is great for running software with a model of the mechatronic hardware, there is a bit more under SVX’s hood.

SystemVision conneXion is an extensible program for connecting disparate applications and processes. The SVX application server manages communication through application or process-specific clients. Want to include a C/C++ or Java algorithm in your simulation? SVX supports clients for both. How about adding a model written in SystemC, or an algorithm modeled in Simulink, or maybe even the system’s mechatronic elements modeled in SystemVision, to the simulation mix. Just use the available clients. And what if you want to use LabVIEW to get an early start on test program development? Since I mentioned it, you probably won’t be surprised to learn SVX also supports a LabVIEW client. And the technology is flexible enough to enable additional clients if needed.

The point of all this is simple: there are many good tools available for designing specific elements of a system, but most are limited to a single design domain. What design teams have long needed is a way to connect applications and processes together in a single simulation session. Enter SVX.

Want to know more about SVX? Click over to the SystemVision conneXion homepage for more details. Or post a comment or send me an email with your question.

Mechatronics, Hardware/software co-design, SystemVision SVX

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About Mike Jensen

Mike JensenMost career paths rooted in high technology take many interesting (and often rewarding) twists and turns. Mine has certainly done just that. After graduating in electrical engineering from the University of Utah (go Utes!), I set off to explore the exciting, multi-faceted high tech industry. My career path since has wound its way from aircraft systems engineering for the United States Air Force, to over two decades in applications engineering and technical marketing for leading design automation software companies, working exclusively with mechatronic system modeling and analysis tools. Along the way, I’ve worked with customers in a broad range of industries and technologies including transportation, communications, automotive, aerospace, semiconductor, computers, and consumer electronics; all-in-all a very interesting, rewarding, and challenging ride. In my current gig, I work on technical marketing projects for Mentor Graphics' SystemVision product line. And in my spare time I dream up gadgets and gizmos, some even big enough to qualify as systems, that I hope someday to build -- providing I can find yet a little more of that increasingly elusive spare time. Visit Mike Jensen's Blog

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