FPGA Technology and Software IP in Power Electronics Applications

Impacts of an embedded software bug in power electronics applications

We all know software is a difficult skill to master and there are tremendous differences in developping software for:

  • PC/desktop applications
  • mobile/tablet applications
  • … and real-time embedded control applications such as power electronics applications

While in all cases a software bug may lead to important financial and human losses (directly or indirectly), the case of embedded software for power electronics application is special since it is meant to directly control the flow of energy from a source (battery, solar, etc.) to a load (electric motor, power network, etc.), not a flow of informations/signals/data is in a typical software application.

Impact #1: System component destruction

It means that a software bug may lead in the bad management of the flow of energy which can itself cause the destruction of components such as power stage (“shoot-through” faults), electric motor (“overcurrent” faults) or electric motor load (pump damage caused by cavitation for example).

impact of a bug power electronics software

Of course, proper installation of electrical equipement protection (i.e. fuses) can prevent most of the damage that may happen on the system components in case of a bug (overcurrent), but not all of them. For example, noise in a transducer may lead to torque ripple which may lead over time into electric motor bearing problems. This is the whole idea of electric motor “condition monitoring”, i.e. tracking over time the state of healt of the motor in order to : (1) detect faults (is there a fault, what component ?) and (2) diagnose faults (what is the cause of the fault, how severe the fault is). Those further interested in the subject may read this article.

Impact #2: Unique embedded motor control software development process

Hence, the development of motor control software needs not only software programming and digital signal processing skills, but it also needs deep “domain knowledge” experience related to power electronics, electric motors, transducers and the type of application where the software is going to run (in a home appliance or in an electric vehicle ?). More on this in a previous blog article. This point is not unique to power electronics software, the same could be same for embedded computer vision software (i.e. smart camera).

However, since motor control software bug may lead to component destruction, this has an impact on how the motor control software development and testing process is going to be made. Blowing a power stage is expensive and takes time to repair : it means you cannot afford to simply “develop some code and test” just like you would while developping a PC/mobile software application. It means you need to be sure that when you are going to turn the power switch on, you are not going to destroy your system.

How can you do that ? Well, you know my pitch on this.

IECON2014 – Call for Papers – Electronic System-on-Chip for Power Electronics Applications

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CALL FOR PAPER Special Session on:  Electronic System-on-chip in power electronics applications  organized and co-chaired by: Dr. Marc Perron, marc.perron@alizem.com Dr. Éric Monmasson, eric.monmasson@u-cergy.fr Topics of interest include, but … [Continue reading]

The Virtualization of Embedded Computing

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In September 2011, I have been contacted by CATA's Jean-Guy Rens who was doing a study regarding the embedded systems industry in Canada titled "The Other Computing : Is Canada ready for the Internet of Things ?". You can freely access his full study … [Continue reading]

FPGA-based Motor Control and Embedded Motor Control Software IP – A review of 2013

Time passes and it is now the moment to make a short review of what happenned, in my opinion, in the world of FPGA-based Motor Control and Embedded Motor Control software IP in 2013: New FPGA evaluation kits Lattice has started the year with … [Continue reading]

ISIE 2014 – Special Session on “Industrial Applications of FPGAs and Embedded Systems”

 ISIE 2014 - IEEE International Symposium on Industrial Electronics June 1-4, 2014, Istanbul, Turkey Website: http://www.isie.boun.edu.tr Call for papers: Special Session on Industrial Applications of FPGAs & Embedded Systems The Special … [Continue reading]

EDA Tool in the cloud: A web-based IOPT Petri Net Editor

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A few weeks ago, I have been pleased to attend IECON2013 in Vienna and had the chance to meet my friend Luis Gomes from the University Nova of Lisboa, Portugal. While discussing together, he took some time to give me some details about a web-based … [Continue reading]

IECON2013: Electronics System-on-Chip in Power Applications

Are you registered for the next IECON2013 in Vienna ? It's still time to plan your trip ! If you happen to be there, I invite you to attend the Technical Session on Electronic System-on-chip in Power Application that I will chair with Dr. Éric … [Continue reading]

FPGA-based Motor Control: “The Brains behind the Motion Controller” Webinar

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I will be giving a webinar on the topic of FPGA-based Motor Control on May 30th 2013. Make sure to register by click this link. Meanwhile, if you have any particular question you would like to be addressed during the Q&A session, feel free to … [Continue reading]

Why developing power electronics embedded software is so hard ?

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Here is a figure I did use in a recent presentation explaining why power electronics software is so hard to develop: Hence, in order to create quality embedded software for power electronics applications, one must have advanced knowledge on … [Continue reading]

IEEE Industrial Electronics Society launches its TechNews (ITeN)

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I am now a proud member of the editorial committee of the new IEEE IES ITeN : "The IE Technology News (ITeN) is a step forward to widen the reach of the IES by a free on-line publication. This provides the extended abstracts of a few timely, thought … [Continue reading]