With over 18 years of experience in software design services, Michael provided some valuable insights regarding embedded software projects. Here are some highlights from that interview:
The complex products being developed today require more resources, a higher level of technical expertise, and shorter production time. These factors have led many companies to opt for some level of embedded software outsourcing over the last few years.
When choosing a services provider for embedded software projects, the earlier an external team can be brought in the better.
The temptation for many companies will be to move forward to code quickly. However, working with a methodical, clear-step approach and leveraging proven change management and collaboration processes will lower development costs and ensure higher quality results.
Outsourcing to an experienced engineering company can eliminate problems early on. Embedded software is a niche area of expertise and if an outsourced team doesn’t have the right experience, serious problems can arise.
San Diego, California. September, 2016. Nuvation will be exhibiting at the Energy Storage North America conference and exhibition October 4-6 in San Diego, California. We will have a live demonstration of Nuvation BMS™, the battery management system that will be managing Alevo’s 2MW/MWh Gridbank energy storage systems. Some features that make it a top-tier BMS for utility-scale energy storage include:
Nuvation BMS™ is architected with high-speed data throughput to support real-time analytics for thousands of battery cells.
It includes multiple concurrent connections for site controllers, data capture, client–specific user interfaces, etc.
Unlike most battery management systems, Nuvation BMS can measure cells and manage the charge process from 0 volts.
It includes a remotely accessible operator interface that shows battery performance at the aggregate and cell levels, faults and warnings, enables maintenance personnel to take down and bring up stacks, roll out BMS firmware updates across the entire ESS container or all containers in the energy storage facility.
To request an appointment for a live product demonstration at ESNA in San Diego, click here.
Waterloo, Ontario. August 2016. Nuvation has been noticing a significant uptick in new product development projects and we thought you might enjoy a quick peek into some of the things companies have been asking us to design for them. Here is a snapshot of what innovators in various industries are up to:
We’ve been working with Toyota on their BLAID project since early this year and are excited to be part of this industry collaboration to develop a device that will significantly improve the mobility and quality of life of the visually impaired. For more information about this project, you can check out Toyota’s web page about it here.
“IoT” or the “Internet of Things” seems to be recession-proof, and we continue to develop products that include low-power wireless networking and collection of data that gets uploaded to the cloud and turned into profit-making business outcomes. The major drivers of this are low-cost sensors, small long-life batteries, and of course Internet bandwidth is much less expensive than it used to be. We have been working on a few commercial and industrial systems with water sensors that measure things like flow, volume, and pressure.
Improvements and cost-reductions in lithium and other battery technologies are driving promising innovations in robotics, energy storage, and specialty vehicle applications. Nuvation’s power electronics experience has been being leveraged here, and we’ve been getting many requests for custom power conversion systems and energy storage solutions.
Nuvation has always specialized in the highly complex, and we’ve seen a major lift there too in applications ranging from life sciences research instruments to space-based electronics. The medical device industry is looking very strong and we’ve been working on home-based health monitoring systems, operating room robotics, and portable emergency response devices.
The energy business looks like it’s going through a boom as industries explore alternatives to traditional sources of fossil fuels, and also employ more innovative technologies to extract natural resources. Nuvation recently completed a project upgrading an analog-based machine vision system to a low-latency digital system for deep-sea exploration.
I hope this quick snapshot gave you a helpful glimpse into what innovators across a range of industries are up to. If you have an electronic design project in mind that you’d like to explore with Nuvation please contact us to discuss whether Nuvation Engineering may be the right fit.
Novi, Michigan. August, 2016. Nuvation will be exhibiting in the Critical Power Expo portion of the Battery Show on September 13-15 in Novi Michigan. Visit us at booth #2119 for a live demonstration of our utility-grade high-voltage battery management system. Our BMS manages voltages as high as 1250 VDC, but we won’t actually have a 1200 volt battery stack on the show floor – that would be a bit heavy! So instead the demo puts out 110 volts using the same type of batteries that are in the Tesla Model S, i.e. those little “18650” lithium-ion cells.
18650 cells are named as such because they are 18mm x 65mm. If you are interested in learning more about the batteries used in electric vehicles, including the 18650s, there is a pretty interesting article about it here.
To learn more about utility-scale battery management, attend Nuvation’s presentation on the topic at the Open Tech Forum, which takes place on the show floor in Expo Hall A, at booth #1151. Michael Worry, Nuvation’s CEO, will be sharing some lessons learned about BMS design based on Nuvation’s experiences designing battery management systems for utility-scale energy storage system developers.
In addition to showing our high-voltage BMS hardware in action, we will be introducing our new 11-60VDC BMS for lower-voltage battery stacks. It employs the software package used in our field-proven high-voltage BMS, in a cost and form factor-optimized hardware platform for lower-voltage battery packs.
If you’d like to learn more about utility-scale battery management, drop by our booth #2119, or contact us.
Waterloo, Ontario, July 2016. A frequently asked question during Printed Circuit Board (PCB) layout review meetings is, “Are 50-ohm traces being used for the digital signals in this PCB layout?” Often the answer to this question is “yes”. However when making decisions that balance cost, performance, and manufacturability the correct answer can also be “no” or “not for all the digital signals”. Alternative approaches can include focusing on the “controlled impedance” of PCB transmission lines and/or using other trace-impedance values.
Let us examine a layer-stack design and see how the PCB trace width affects layer count (cost) and trace impedance (performance). In Figure 1, routing channels of the same width are shown on a signal layer for three PCB transmission lines: a 100-ohm differential pair, a 50-ohm and 60-ohm single-ended.
Figure 1: Routing channels of the same width are shown on a signal layer for three PCB transmission lines for a 100-ohm differential pair, a 50-ohm and 60-ohm single-ended
The 100-ohm differential-pair is usually determined prior to the single-ended and should be fitted in the routing channel (between the vias) without discontinuities because they are usually for higher speed digital signals. Once the trace width and spacing of the 100-ohm differential-pair have been designed, the trace width for 50-ohm or 60-ohm single-ended on the same layer is usually determined accordingly. Changing the trace width alone for the single-ended traces will lead to different trace impedance. The trace routing yield per channel is:
Right: One 100-ohm differential-pair with 4mil trace / 5.5mil space.
Middle: Two 60-ohm traces for single-ended with 4mil trace / 4mil space.
Left: One 50-ohm trace for single-ended with 6.5mil trace / 7.4mil space.
Note: This example assumes that the minimum trace width and spacing are 4mils.
In this case, the engineer needs to make trade-off decisions on using either 50-ohm traces, which use up more PCB space and possibly more layers, or 60-ohm traces which use up less PCB space and possibly less PCB layers.
“Nuvation’s attainment of Draft 3 conformance streamlines the integration of their battery management system with Parker’s MESA-compliant inverters and 3rd-party site controllers on the Alevo GridBank project. As a founding member of MESA, Parker views Nuvation’s adoption of MESA standards and their ongoing involvement as an important step in simplifying the integration of Nuvation BMS into energy storage systems.” – Daniel Friberg, Division Engineering Manager, Parker Hannifin
Nuvation Grid Battery Controller (on right), managing multiple battery stacks in a 2MW/1MWhr Alevo GridBank energy storage system
Sunnyvale, California. June 6, 2016. Nuvation Engineering has announced that their battery management system for large-scale energy storage systems (ESS) is now conformant with Draft 3 of the MESA-Device/SunSpec Energy Storage Model. “MESA Draft 3 conformant products share a common communications interface that exposes all the data and control points required for operating the energy storage system,” said John Corman, Vice-President, Engineering and Product Management at Nuvation. “Nuvation BMS can now be integrated with any other MESA-conformant energy storage hardware or software without the custom middleware often required to enable different companies’ products to work together.”
“Nuvation’s attainment of Draft 3 conformance streamlines the integration of their battery management system with Parker’s MESA-conformant inverters and 3rd-party site controllers on the Alevo GridBank project,” said Daniel Friberg, Division Engineering Manager, Parker Hannifin. “As a founding member of MESA, Parker views Nuvation’s adoption of MESA standards and their ongoing involvement as an important step in simplifying the integration of Nuvation BMS into energy storage systems.”
Novi Michigan, April, 2016. Alevo has selected Nuvation BMS™ to manage their lithium-ion based GridBank containerized energy storage systems (ESS). Alevo’s planned U.S. deployment will provide more than 200MW of available power to utility grids. Nuvation’s utility-grade battery management system will control the batteries in Alevo’s 2MW /1MWh ESS containers and support voltages approaching 1250 VDC. A Nuvation Grid Battery Controller™ will control parallel battery stacks and provide a central interface for grid integration and energy
Nuvation CEO Michael Worry presenting Nuvation BMS™ in a 2MW/1MWh Alevo GridBank at Parker Hannifin, Energy Grid Tie Division facilities
Nuvation BMS™ includes features such as remote monitoring and management, automated BMS firmware updating, redundant safety features, and granular battery performance optimization controls. The Grid Battery Controller™ centralizes the management of parallel battery stacks in a single device, and can be connected to external energy management controls and data analytics systems. It also includes a host of additional management features such as real-time data streaming and early identification of potential cell degradation.
Nuvation BMS™ is a chemistry-agnostic battery management system that can support lithium-ion, lead-acid, zinc-oxide, nickel, other chemistries and supercapacitors.
An Alevo GridBank Battery Stack being managed by Nuvation BMS
In 2013, Nuvation designed and built a mechatronic version of the popular mobile game Angry Birds. Keeping with our company’s Canadian heritage, we dubbed the game Angry Moose. A 3D-printed, comically large slingshot is aimed using three linear actuators which set the azimuth, angle and stretch (“anger”). These actuators are controlled by Jaguar motor controllers which take a PWM control signal generated by an FPGA. The player uses an iPad with a custom Angry Moose app to wirelessly send control data to a WiFi router, which relays the control data to the FPGA over wired Ethernet.
Arrow Electronics SoCKIT
Since then, Nuvation has been continually updating the FPGA platform with new Altera FPGA parts, adding features and tweaking the game to make it more fun. In 2014 we upgraded the FPGA from a Cyclone III, running an embedded NIOS microcontroller, to a Cyclone V running the latest NIOS II soft-core embedded processor. In October of 2015, we incorporated the Arrow Electronics SoCKIT, which upgraded the FPGA to the Cyclone V SoC and utilized the hard, dual ARM-core processor, which allowed us to do the software development in a Linux environment.
“Altera SoCs integrate an ARM-based hard processor system (HPS) consisting of processor, peripherals, and memory interfaces with the FPGA fabric using a high-bandwidth interconnect backbone.” (text copied from Altera website).
The hardware side of the project involved using the QSys system integration software to instantiate the ARM-based Hard Processor System (HPS), attach the Ethernet controller, import our existing PWM controllers and assign hardware addresses. I then used the Quartus II IDE to build the Verilog top level module and create the pin assignments. Compiling the FPGA took minutes. From there, it was a quick effort to get the development kit to boot Linux using an SD card image provided by www.RocketBoards.org. As a testament to Altera’s ever-improving tool flow, I did all of this in one afternoon with no prior SoC experience. At this point, the hardware implementation was done. The rest of the project required developing the software driver to communicate with the memory mapped PWM modules.
Not being familiar with driver design in Linux, I fumbled around, looking for similar drivers and trying, unsuccessfully, to pattern match something that would work. The online documentation at Rocket Boards consisted of a few rough tutorials and some community-generated projects with sparse documentation. I felt disappointed that documentation for SoC design was largely left up to the community and wished more had been done to provide developers with example projects. One developer was able to put together a driver that worked, but in his words, wasn’t pretty. Nevertheless, at this point our Angry Moose demo was able to receive commands over Ethernet using a simple web server and parse the commands in order to direct the PWM modules and move the actuators.
We debuted the improved Angry Moose game at Altera’s ASDF (Altera SoC Developer’s Forum), where it was a smash hit.
Helping the average person understand the energy stored by a 1MWh energy storage system can sometime involve making some pretty interesting comparisons. Where more commonly one might see something like “it will power X amount of average households for X amount of hours,” we recently came across a comparison of “the equivalent of over 2 million iPhone batteries” that sent our BMS engineering team trying to out-do each other in frivolous comparisons of dubious value.
We are pleased to share the winner here with you today, complete with cited sources for accuracy:
• 80×23,000,000=1.84 billion lemons produced each year (enough for 1 and a bit 1MWh ESS systems)
• 1,390,000,000×0.25= 347,500,000 lbs, or 173,750 tons (a 40’ ISO container maximum load is 28.88 tons, so this is 6,017 shipping containers full of lemon batteries)
It would be a huge burden on the US citrus economy as well as a huge site installation to build a 1MWh lemon-battery ESS. Not to mention this ESS is “recharged” organically by replacing the lemons from lemon trees that use the depleted lemons in their compost to grow more lemons.
But you know the saying, “When life gives you 1.39 billion lemons, you make a 1MWh ESS”