Aircraft door simulators use Ethernet-enabled motor drives - Embedded.com

Aircraft door simulators use Ethernet-enabled motor drives

LONDON — The dynamic control of motion made possible by a high-speed an Ethernet Powerlink machine network is being used on a new generation of aircraft door trainer that provides flexibility to simulate emergency conditions.

The Cabin Emergency Evacuation Trainer (CEET) – manufactured by EDM (Oldham, England) – uses Baldor's (Bristol, England) Ethernet-compatible machine controller, with two servo motor axes to control the operating characteristics of the emergency exit door's hinge and handle.

The 100 Mbits/second speed of the Ethernet control network allows EDM to dynamically vary the loading force that each of the two motors apply throughout the door's operational cycle. This realistically simulates problems ranging from a simple failure of the door's hydraulic automation, to complex scenarios such as obstructions or damage.

The introduction of drives compatible with the real-time Ethernet Powerlink protocol allowed EDM to create a more elegant control system. A single controller – the NextMove e100 – and software program dynamically manages the position, speed and torque limits on both motor axes, as well as a large array of I/O that controls other simulated aircraft functions such as cabin lighting, indicators, etc.

The engineering development environment for the motion control system is Mint Workbench enables connectivity of the real-time machine and motion controller with a PC – which runs EDM's graphical aircraft emergency simulation software.

The motion and I/O control software is written in Mint, Baldor's high level machine and motion control language and makes use of a free multi-tasking kernel. This avoided a lot of programming effort by allowing the code for the standalone motion control axes of the previous simulator to be imported and treated as individual tasks, giving the developers a good starting point for the new system.

“Software represents one of the largest elements of our product costs. The high level nature of the Mint language helps us to minimise the engineering cycles for new simulator designs,” says EDM's systems manager, Alan Nicholson. “Now that the base software is in place, modifying it to emulate different types of aircraft door can be achieved very quickly.”

A diagnostics capability gives EDM access to features built into the Ethernet Powerlink hardware, such as data acquisition capabilities, an error log, and a temperature sensor. The user can monitor real-time parameters of the control system for example, or run test moves – and compare them with ones captured at the time of manufacture using a 'software oscilloscope' tool – to see if any mechanical issues have emerged following commissioning.

As the tools are free-issue, EDM bundles them onto the control PC provided with each simulator. This helps EDM provide engineering support to airline customers worldwide in the event of a problem, by simply logging into the system over the internet.

The first user of EDM's new generation of simulation technology is a major European airline, which commissioned a cabin trainer for the Airbus A319 and since this order, EDM has completed a door trainer for the inaugural purchaser of the new double-decker Airbus A380. EDM is also employing the real-time torque control facility of Baldor's Ethernet Powerlink motion control modules to emulate brake pedal action on a vehicle simulator project.

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