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Analysis of field-programmable gate array-based safety systems in lightweight applications

Hamilton, James J. (2017) Analysis of field-programmable gate array-based safety systems in lightweight applications. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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The current approach to implementing safety measures for the purposes of preserving human-life and property as either hardware or software has a number of inherent limitations. This report explores and evaluates the use of the Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) available on the National Instruments myRIO-1900 platform as means of combining the strengths of both approaches, with the classical ball and beam control problem used as a basis of testing a number of common features of safety-systems.

Two different ball and beam configurations were used. During the prototyping phase, the beam was directly driven by a stepper motor while the final project apparatus utilised a standard servo and push-rod configuration. The change occurred due to a failure of the operational failure of the stepper motor. As a result, limited useful test data was gathered. However, feedback and analysis addressed a number of larger issues encountered during prototyping prior to the development of the final project build.

Results gathered during testing of the final prototype provided arguments for and against the use of an FPGA for the purpose of implementing safety systems. It was demonstrated that FPGA-based redundancy provides a means of reliably executing a multitude of time-dependent safety and monitoring processes at once.

However, it was also demonstrated that FPGA-based systems lack some important benefits associated with hardware and software systems. FPGA function complexity and size is quite limited and time consuming to implement, and the chip itself lacks the robustness commonly associated with hardware.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Engineering and Information Technology
Supervisor(s): Lee, Gareth
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