Control Systems Come in All Shapes and Sizes
Control systems are everywhere around us. Each of your home appliances uses a control system and complicated machines like airplanes or rockets use many control systems. Every control system has inputs and outputs; some have manual inputs from an operator while others are automated.
At Endigit, we design, develop and test control systems. We have developed simple systems that control the flow of pressurized gas to a variable set point and complicated systems that control carriage movement, multi-dimensional nozzle direction, and pressure in the nozzle’s chamber.
Automatic Reactor Control System
An example of a large and interesting control system is the Automated Reactor Control System (ARCS) for the Transient Reactor Test Facility (TREAT) at Idaho National Laboratory (INL). TREAT is a nuclear test reactor designed to test reactor fuels and structural materials. It was constructed over 60 years ago and has been out of use for more than 20 years. As INL was ready to bring the system back into use, we helped reimplement the old and outdated control software with modern hardware and software. Upon refresh, the system is able to operate at steady state power of 100 kilowatts, to safely control short transients of up to 19 Gigawatts, and produce precisely shaped transients while recording the results to be studied by nuclear researchers.
Endigit worked closely with INL to design, iterate, and implement an effective, easy-to-use system. Through strong communication and careful coordination, we were able to deliver a system that set INL up for successful research of nuclear fuels.
As part of the automatic reactor control system project, Endigit also built a reactor simulator. This software ran on its own NI PXI chassis and simulated the entire nuclear power plant. This aspect of the project proved to have many great benefits. The most important benefit is safety. Once we had a plant simulation, we could run the control software without risking damage to the reactor or causing a dangerous nuclear situation. We were able to successfully test and validate the automated control system before we connected to the reactor. It was also extremely helpful when the reactor was occupied by other groups that were involved in other parts of the system refresh. If we didn’t have access to the reactor, we could still develop and test code rather than sit around and wait for access. This turned out to be a major time-saver for the development of the control system. Simulation is very useful in many systems and not just control systems.