Makers of embedded mechatronic systems are increasingly employing model-based design, but will need to boost their use of it in coming years, said a maker of simulation software at National Manufacturing Week today.
“Every automotive and aerospace company in the world is using model-based design today,” noted Tony Lennon, manager of industrial automation and machinery for The MathWorks. “The big industries that can’t afford to crash their prototypes already use it. But we’re starting to see it now in smaller companies.” At a session titled “Embedded Control,” Lennon told the audience that makers of industrial machinery, medical systems, and handheld products, such as cell phones, are potential users of the technology.
Model-based design — a software-based technique that enables users to evaluate the performance of complicated, multi-domain products — is becoming more important as engineers boost the number of microcontrollers in their designs, Lennon said. Although it has been available for most of this decade, the rapid growth of mechanical-electronic products, or “mechatronic” products, has fueled a greater need for software systems that can help designers deal with rising complexity.
“It’s getting cheaper and cheaper to put in embedded processors,” Lennon said. “But that increases the complexity and impacts delivery times.”
The biggest problem facing such designers is lateness. Complicated embedded products are often plagued by unrealistic scheduling and changes in specifications, largely as a result of the complexity, Lennon said.
He noted that model-based design helps engineers develop and refine system-level models, as well as refine control strategies and generate code for rapid prototyping and production.
Lennon cited examples of several large companies that have used model-based design to stay on schedule, including ABB, Xerox, Oce, and Wartsila. Xerox, he said, used the technique to help reduce develop time of copier control systems and Oce employed it in the development of copier imaging drums. He also noted that large automakers have used it in the development of powertrain strategies. Cell phone makers, such as Motorola and Nokia, have also been known to employ it during the design process.
“For companies building complex systems, having a common environment for mechanical and electrical systems is important,” Lennon said.