Application Highlight: Simulation and Testing with Enclustra Mercury ZX5 SoM

February 20, 2024

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Application Highlight: Simulation and Testing with Enclustra Mercury ZX5 SoM

Power electronics are the underlying technologies behind most, if not all, of the advances that are part of the ongoing Fourth Industrial Revolution of connectivity and automation.

Many critical applications require advanced power electronics, including electric vehicles, aerospace, industrial automation, manufacturing, robotics, and the entire spectrum of energy operation and generation. With that in mind, it’s important that companies looking to capitalize and innovate within the embedded space be looking at how they engage with the challenging work of development, testing, and validation of power electronics solutions.

Power electronics technology controls voltage, current, and frequency of electrical power and can be used to convert between AC and DC. These systems operate at high switching frequencies and can introduce non-linearities into the system, which is complex to manage and depends on the many interactions between electrical circuits and controls. All of this means that power control systems must be designed holistically and with an eye to interoperability from the start, and that requires high-end, real-time simulation, which is a distinct advantage during the design process.

Application Use Case

Plexim is a company that designs tools to help electrical engineers with the conceptual design, realization, and verification of such complex power electronics systems. The Swiss company’s PLECS circuit simulator has, since its release in 2002, been a standard for modeling and simulation in academia and the industry.

The company also saw the need for a compact, powerful device for hardware-in-the-loop and rapid control prototyping applications that make it easier for engineers to convert offline models into online real-time simulations with analog and digital I/O. To meet that need, Plexim set out to develop its RT Boxes.

One of the key challenges in developing these RT Boxes is that the engineers need them to provide enough power to run simulations in real-time. Hardware-in-the-loop testing in particular requires power electronics controllers to connect to a real-time simulation of the real-world testing system. That means that the RT Boxes must capture PWM signals with a time resolution of around 7 ns. Such a low latency requirement with microsecond cycle times also necessitates tight integration between an FPGA and standard CPU.

Plexim’s engineers are experts in developing the peripheral electronics needed to facilitate their solutions, so the company wanted to find a partner that could bring that same level of expertise to designing the onboard FPGA modules that would combine with standard CPU. The answer was found in an advanced Enclustra SoM, featuring multiple standard CPU cores alongside an FPGA.

Enclustra Mercury ZX5 SoM

The Enclustra Mercury ZX5 SoM includes modules capable of providing enough ultra-low-latency I/O options powerful enough to achieve microsecond cycle times, all in a compact form factor. The SoM used in the first RT Box incorporated an AMD Xilinx Zynq 7015/7030 SoC, ARM dual-core Cortex-A9 processor and AMD Xilinx Artix-7/Kintex-7 28nm FPGA fabric.

Plexim has gone on to develop the RT Box 2 and the RT Box 3 to advance the capabilities and meet the needs for even more demanding applications. For these editions, Enclustra’s Mercury+ XU1 SoM was used. It was built on top of the AMD Xilinx Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC and an ARM dual-/quad-core Cortex-A53 processor, with a 16nm FinFET+ FPGA fabric.

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