Alina Urbaniak

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Simplify Your Work in Power Electronics with Circuit Diagram Tool

Simulation tools help engineers designing and improving the electrical systems. Such solutions are able to solve complex problems in less time. However, before simulating some electrical system, you need to model it. That is what we allow the users to do with Schematic Editor – a circuit diagramming application – which we’re developing with our client. Let us show you how it simplifies and optimizes engineers’ workflows in power electronics.

The main idea of industrial simulation is duplicating a system and then testing that system exhaustively – as though it were the real thing. Since many systems are pre-existing or based on their analog predecessors, they must be re-designed, or diagrammed, in order to be tested. Many engineering interfaces used for this diagramming or modeling are built with restrictive specifications in mind, or perhaps not much thought is given to their interfaces and user experience at all.

OPAL-RT’s Schematic Editor allows the users to develop power electronic model of a real system. Then the client’s simulator enables them to test this model with real-equipment connected to the emulated world. The users can try out their solution without the need of having the real plant system. For example, an engineer can model a controller for the electrical car, using Schematic Editor. Then she or he can simulate it with OPAL-RT simulator connected to the real controller. This way the engineer is able to change the operating conditions and do some maneuvers on the car to see the response of the controller and see if the logic implemented in the controller is working well.

APPLICATION FOR POWER ELECTRONICS

OPAL-RT – the company which owns Schematic Editor – offers a complete environment for simulating electric circuits. They were selling it together with expensive external companies’ software, but they decided to create their own competitive solution. That is how our project started.

OPAL-RT operates in power electronics which is a demanding and complex field. It spans the gulf from industrial power transmission and distribution to the micro-design and testing of chips and circuits for electrical aircraft and boats, for example. It is very important to test every solution before releasing it in order to avoid needless risk and wastage.

From the very beginning, we knew that the subject of this project was difficult but it didn’t discourage us. Such tasks always motivate us to work! 

We rolled up our sleeves and begun learning power electronics industry so that we could easily understand the client’s needs and the application value to the business.

We were working closely with OPAL-RT representatives, we had meetings and workshops both in Poland and Canada.

CREATING A CIRCUIT DIAGRAM. CHALLENGES

We started working on this application from preparing a prototype for the client. Back then we developed the first functional version of the app enabling the user to create basic electric circuits. After analyzing further requirements, we officially kicked the project off. 

At the beginning, we had to figure out what would be the best format and structure of data used by diagram model. When this step was finished we could use the established structure to create backend – including a Web API and PostgreSQL database. The WebAPI was related only to data access layer – yet it included complex business logic that took a few sprints to accomplish. When all of the fundamental backbone of the system was in place, then everything we had on frontend could be routed through the API and database. The result was the capability to both save versioned models and to read them back in context. 

From the beginning of the project, we’ve been using GoJS – JavaScript library for data visualization – to create a tool for designing advanced electrical circuit diagrams.

Often, when we add new complex functionality, we spend time investigating the best way to fit it into the overall architecture. Having all features well organized, and based on the sound communication of application layers, makes applications a great deal easier to develop and maintain. Many new features require from us development of solutions that GoJS wasn’t originally made for.- Many of our tasks are unconventional like adding ports dynamically or lines merge. Then, we have to think outside the box – says Przemek, a developer and technical architect working on this project.

Diagram of electrical circuit

BENEFITS OF A CIRCUIT DIAGRAM

User – an engineer – working with Schematic Editor application can now easily create complex electrical circuits. This is possible thanks to:

  • the intuitive layout of the app,
  • the blocks on the palette reflecting accurately the elements of the electrical circuit, and 
  • the intuitive and user-friendly convenient way of drawing lines.

One of the chief benefits of this application is the validation mechanisms, featuring real-time feedback. The lines change visually anytime the state of the electrical circuit changes, and this is visually communicated to the user. This real-time validation prevents a user from, for example, drawing an incorrect connection—the action is suspended, and a notification is displayed. The real-time implementation of this feature means that the system is smart and receives input as well as providing feedback. Many tools on the market have validation features, but in this case, the user is notified as the diagram progresses for consideration and adjustment by the user.  

Validation alerts

The user’s OPAL-RT simulator or solver enables them to test power electronics model through physical or virtual hardware and equipment connected to the simulated world. Users make modifications, try out configurations, and return to the drawing board at will—all without leaving the simulated space. 

WORK IN THE PROJECT. REGULAR FEEDBACK AND QUALITY

It’s a very dynamic project, yet we always care about quality and we are able to find time to do brainstorming. It helps us to find the best way to introduce new elements without losing code quality and architectural design.

We practice frequent meetings with the client and we work together with their developers. To organize our tasks, we use our custom-made Scrum approach. – We try to constantly improve our work process, for example, through regular feedback meeting with the client and checking quality of code with a special tool, SonarQube – says Piotr, a team leader.

Would you like to get to know more about our work process? Read how we work on web application development project.