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MathWorks’ Simulink Family

By Jim Romeo

Based in Germany, Steve Miller is a technical marketing manager for physical modeling products for MathWorks. Desktop Engineering recently spoke with Miller to understand some of MathWorks’ latest products, its philosophy in offering physical modeling software, the Simulink family of products, and its SimPowerSystems product:

DE: Can you give us an overview of Simulink? 
SM: Simulink is an environment for multi-domain simulation and model-based design (MBD) for dynamic and embedded systems. MBD with MATLAB and Simulink provides an interactive graphical environment and a customizable set of block libraries that allows engineers, scientists and researchers across the globe design, simulate, implement and test a variety of time-varying systems, including communications, controls, signal processing, video processing and image processing.

MBD begins with the creation of an executable specification that can be linked to the original requirements, providing two-way traceability between the design and the requirements. At the heart of the executable specification is an executable model, used and elaborated on throughout the process. The executable specification can also include inputs and expected outputs, the application environment and clear communication of the design goals to enable feasibility analysis of the requirements. By using the links in the executable specification to the original requirements, engineers can monitor whether the design conforms to the requirements throughout the process, and quickly assess the impact of a proposed change on original requirements.

DE: Let’s talk a little about your recently released SimPowerSystems.
SM: SimPowerSystems is used to model and simulate electrical power systems, covering the generation, transmission, distribution and consumption of electrical power. For example, it includes the power supplies used in laptops, power converters used in solar power systems and electric drives, and the electrical grid that transmits and distributes renewable energy sources to our homes. SimPowerSystems provides models of many components used in these systems, and automates key power system analyses, such as those used to check required component sizes and detect harmonics or other problems in the system.

The recent announcement discusses the new, stronger connection from SimPowerSystems to Simscape and other physical modeling products in the Simulink family. With new capabilities such as support for the Simscape Editing Mode, SimPowerSystems 5.5 now offers engineers the ability to share models of electrical power systems with all other Simscape users. SimPowerSystems models can connect to models built using Simscape and other domain-specific add-on products, such as SimMechanics and SimHydraulics—helping engineers detect integration issues among electrical, mechanical and control systems early in the development process.

DE: From your point of view, what do your products offer that other simulation software developers do not offer?
SM: Through the MATLAB and Simulink families, MathWorks products offer a development environment where engineers create a model of the entire system that is used throughout the entire development process.

There are two key points in that statement: the entire system and the entire development process. Engineers can add just as much detail as they need for a given task, and quickly adjust the level of fidelity of any part of their system as necessary. This makes it possible to simulate the entire system in a reasonable amount of time, and find integration problems early. By using the same model from start to finish, from requirements gathering and refinement through testing of the final software design on the embedded system, it enables engineers to be extremely efficient by detecting problems as early as possible.

DE: What attributes of simulation software truly drive its effectiveness?
SM: The effectiveness of simulation software can be measured by its capabilities that help an engineer get the job done quickly. Anything provided that saves engineers time will make them more effective.

With MATLAB, engineers can automate virtually any task they need to perform in the MathWorks toolchain, eliminating repetitive work. SimPowerSystems and SimDriveline make it possible for engineers to model a physical system without deriving and programming equations, allowing them to spend more time on design and analysis—and less time on programming and implementation.

Jim Romeo is based in Chesapeake, VA. Contact him via de-editors@deskeng.com.

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About Jim Romeo

Jim Romeo is a freelance writer based in Chesapeake, VA. Send e-mail about this article to DE-Editors@deskeng.com.