Robotics Industry News
Breakthrough In Hard Real-Time For Complex Systems
IntervalZero Posted 10/13/2011
Control systems that manage many degrees of motion and require hard real-time responsiveness have traditionally relied on digital signal processors (DSPs) or field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) to meet precision and performance requirements. Today, that model is under scrutiny as OEMs face intense pressure to cut their costs, improve quality, and differentiate products. OEMs can meet these goals by moving to a multi-core, software-based control architecture. This innovative approach is enabled by IntervalZero* RTX* 2011, a unique solution that integrates real-time symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) into Microsoft* Windows*.
Playing an important role in this transition to software-based control is the new 2nd generation Intel® Core™ processor family. These processors introduce a new microarchitecture that features Intel® Advanced Vector Extensions (Intel® AVX), a fully integrated advanced graphics engine, an innovative ring interconnect, and other enhancements. These advances enable the new processor to handle greater workloads within the same thermal envelope as the previous generation processors, and make it easier for OEMs to achieve power, cost, performance, and footprint objectives.
This article will discuss the advantages of using the IntervalZero RTX 2011 real-time plug-in and 2nd Generation Intel® Core™ processors to implement software-based control.
A New Breakthrough in Hard Real-Time Design for Complex Systems
High-performance motion-control systems are facing a host of challenges. OEMs are under constant pressure to produce systems with greater performance and more sophisticated features. In addition, OEMs are now expected to create advanced human-machine interfaces (HMIs) with slick graphics and intuitive touch-based interaction. At the same time, greater competition is leading to a faster pace of innovation and increased cost and time-to-market (TTM) pressure.
Software-based control delivers four major advantages that help OEMs overcome these challenges:
- Streamlined development process with a single tool flow
- Easier code re-use and performance scaling through the use of SMP
- Cost savings from the integration of real-time control functions and HMI on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware
- Reduced inventory and simplified quality control
Cost Savings Through Integration
Motion control systems that combine complex control and sophisticated HMIs have often relied on a two-tier architecture. The real-time applications ran on DSPs or FPGAs, while the HMI ran on a microprocessor. This meant two chip sets, two tool chains, two code bases, two development groups, and two maintenance efforts. The real-time team was often hardware-oriented, with a design process far different from the HMI team. Success required careful coordination and communications.
With RTX 2011, OEMs can implement both the hard real-time control and complex HMI on 2nd generation Intel Core processors, eliminating the need for DSPs and FPGAs. As illustrated in Figure 1, RTX 2011 makes this possible by integrating hard real-time SMP extensions into the Microsoft Windows platform. The real-time extensions serve as an RTOS, adding a real-time scheduler and other functionality to allow threads that required determinism to run in a real-time container outside the constraints of Microsoft* Windows*. At the same time, developers retain full access to the world-class HMI features available in Microsoft Windows, as well as its excellent connectivity to back-office IT systems.