Power Electronics Hardware in the Loop


The future (and present for many cutting edge users) of power electronics control – and something we at TI are helping to promote – is the expansion of model based development, i.e. simulation and automatic code generation tools.  You may already be familiar with the digital version of this capability, from products like Visual Solutions VisSim/ECD and Mathwork’s Simulink & Embedded Target.  These tools introduced the concept of target-in-loop, allowing for real-time interaction between the control software running on a TI processor (target) that interfaces with the simulation of the plant running on the computer (taking stimulus from and providing simulated feedback to the controller).  It is a wonderful concept for controls development – especially dangerous and costly high power control – that unfortunately has one glaring issue: how well is the entire plant being modeled and simulated, and how do you then interact with the digital portion?   There are attempts at solutions for this issue, including Powersim’s PSIM and Plexim’s PLECS, both of which provide standalone products and plug-ins to Simulink which assist in modeling the switching circuitry.  We at TI use these tools ourselves and find them quite good.  But there is now an additional approach which has very strong merits, especially in high power and high reliability applications like renewable energy, power generation, and transportation; Typhoon HIL’s hardware in the loop.  They describe it as a power electronics laboratory in a box, but I describe it as the first analog  programmable hardware (1us calculation time steps!) that can allow us to truly close the loop with our digital real-time controllers.  Control and Simulated switching power both in the loop together.  Truly amazing.  Here is a short video, and I recommend this brochure as a high level overview.

 

I encourage you to investigate all of these options as they each have their own benefits and approach the problem in slightly different ways.  Just like assembly code was made archaic by C compilers, so will C code by automatic code generation tool-sets.  But the true panacea is a fully integrated power electronics system solution; allowing modeling, real-time in the loop simulation & verification (across instrument-able system level events), automatic and traceable code & compile generation, and quality assurance testing.  And it is closer than you think!