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Proceedings Paper

Knowledge-based engineering of a PLC controlled telescope
Author(s): Wim Pessemier; Gert Raskin; Philippe Saey; Hans Van Winckel; Geert Deconinck
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Paper Abstract

As the new control system of the Mercator Telescope is being finalized, we can review some technologies and design methodologies that are advantageous, despite their relative uncommonness in astronomical instrumentation. Particular for the Mercator Telescope is that it is controlled by a single high-end soft-PLC (Programmable Logic Controller). Using off-the-shelf components only, our distributed embedded system controls all subsystems of the telescope such as the pneumatic primary mirror support, the hydrostatic bearing, the telescope axes, the dome, the safety system, and so on. We show how real-time application logic can be written conveniently in typical PLC languages (IEC 61131-3) and in C++ (to implement the pointing kernel) using the commercial TwinCAT 3 programming environment. This software processes the inputs and outputs of the distributed system in real-time via an observatory-wide EtherCAT network, which is synchronized with high precision to an IEEE 1588 (PTP, Precision Time Protocol) time reference clock. Taking full advantage of the ability of soft-PLCs to run both real-time and non real-time software, the same device also hosts the most important user interfaces (HMIs or Human Machine Interfaces) and communication servers (OPC UA for process data, FTP for XML configuration data, and VNC for remote control). To manage the complexity of the system and to streamline the development process, we show how most of the software, electronics and systems engineering aspects of the control system have been modeled as a set of scripts written in a Domain Specific Language (DSL). When executed, these scripts populate a Knowledge Base (KB) which can be queried to retrieve specific information. By feeding the results of those queries to a template system, we were able to generate very detailed “browsable” web-based documentation about the system, but also PLC software code, Python client code, model verification reports, etc. The aim of this paper is to demonstrate the added value that technologies such as soft-PLCs and DSL-scripts and design methodologies such as knowledge-based engineering can bring to astronomical instrumentation.

Paper Details

Date Published: 8 August 2016
PDF: 11 pages
Proc. SPIE 9913, Software and Cyberinfrastructure for Astronomy IV, 991343 (8 August 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2232566
Show Author Affiliations
Wim Pessemier, KU Leuven (Belgium)
Gert Raskin, KU Leuven (Belgium)
Philippe Saey, KU Leuven (Belgium)
Hans Van Winckel, KU Leuven (Belgium)
Geert Deconinck, KU Leuven (Belgium)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 9913:
Software and Cyberinfrastructure for Astronomy IV
Gianluca Chiozzi; Juan C. Guzman, Editor(s)

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