Monday, February 23, 2009

20> Podcar Control and Encoders

I’ve been wanting to start a conversation about PRT control for some time, so I thought I would start with this primer on motor control.

I don’t know a whole lot about brushless motors, other than that brushes are the means regular motors use to time the advance the magnetic fields ahead of the advancing rotor. With modern electronics, however, motors do not require mechanical means to achieve this timing. Triggering the magnets electronically offers great precision. Instead of “full-on, full-off”, magnetic forces can be ramped up or down; the motor’s rotation can be advanced or reversed, even held frozen.

Whereas in theory one could always know just where the shaft is, rotation-wise, under load the actual rotations or speed could differ from what is expected. One answer is the optical encoder.

My thanks to for the logic diagram and shaft encoder pic. I just glanced at the site, but it looks educational. Sorry about the resolution. Click on the image to enlarge it.

The key is the C shaped “electric-eye”. (optocoupler) As holes in the disk align with the beam, a logic pulse is created. In the third picture, I depict how the same principle could be used to inform a PRT system on a pod-car’s position (and speed) along the track.

Some thoughts:
1. The track can be fitted with the PRT equivalent to traffic signs. Unlike drivers, PRT vehicles will follow their instructions to the letter. “Signs” in the track can trigger precise deceleration rates for upcoming turns, acceleration rates for merging, etc.
2. These “traffic signs” can be dynamic, reflecting real-time data.
3. The track itself should also receive data from the PRT vehicles. Track segments can “know” their traffic counts, for example, to upgrade or downgrade their availability factor, for routing decisions. It would seem that the process of merging would be the result of direct cross talk between cars and track.

There’s a lot more to be said about the division of control responsibilities, so I’ll save that for a separate post.


Mr_Grant said...

You've got the concept. It's a wheel angle encoder, a type was used on the Morgantown PRT. Anderson refers to them on p. 7 here.

Dan said...

Dan The Blogger Responds

Thanks for the link. I think it is useful enough that I would like to broaden the discussion into one or more full posts. There are certainly a lot important concepts in there. I must say, though, it seems like it was written a long time ago. I wonder how much would change with today's computing, optic, and communication technologies. BTW I finally got back to you on the linear motor took me a while to compose my thoughts..