Implementation and Evaluation of a Linear Axis Rapid Development System


In most control courses the topic of feedback control is introduced at a theoretical level. A typical assignment, for example, is to design a controller (i.e., compute controller gains) to regulate the position of a linear axis given a very simple model of the linear axis. The student may conduct a simple simulation; however, they will probably not be able to implement the controller on physical hardware. In this situation the student misses opportunities to 1) explore the effects saturation, quantization, nonlinear friction, and sample period have on their controller and 2) investigate real physical results. These opportunities are lost due to the fact that the time required for the student to interact with the hardware is prohibitive in a traditional semester course. This paper presents a Linear Axis Rapid Development System (RDS), based on Simulink, which provides the student with a tool to explore all phases of controller development after the theoretical work is complete. When the student has an algorithm that is ready to implement, they encode the algorithm as a subsystem in Simulink. The controller inputs and outputs, along with their engineering units, are carefully specified. The student then utilizes the Linear Axis RDS to analyze the controller. The Linear Axis RDS has three modes: simulation, emulation, and implementation. In the simulation mode the student simulates a linear axis system that includes their controller and detailed models of the interface hardware and linear axis. In the emulation mode, the simulation is performed on the computer hardware that will implement the controller. In this mode the student can ensure their algorithm will run in real time (i.e., the algorithm's execution time is less than the sample period). In the implementation mode, the controller is deployed on the hardware system and experimental data is gathered. This paper presents the results of the implementation of the linear axis RDS in a manufacturing automation course and initial usability studies, aimed at assessing its effectiveness as a learning tool. © American Society for Engineering Education, 2009.

Meeting Name

2009 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition (2009: Jun. 14-17, Austin, TX)


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Second Department

Business and Information Technology

Keywords and Phrases

Control Course; Controller Development; Controller Gain; Detailed Models; Engineering Unit; Execution Time; Experimental Data; Hardware System; Interface Hardware; Learning Tool; Manufacturing Automation; Nonlinear Friction; Rapid Development System; Real Time; Semester Course; Simple Model; Simulink; Usability Studies

Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


File Type





© 2009 American Society of Engineering Education, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

17 Jun 2009

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