Flowcode 6 is the latest version of the flow charting software from Matrix Multimedia. As well as improved functionality over the previous versions, v6 includes many new features. In this article I will provide an overview of one of the key new features, 3D modelling and electro-mechanical system simulation and demonstrate the simplicity with which pre-made 3D models from dedicated drawing packages can be imported into Flowcode to allow users to simulate their own systems.
Flowcode is a graphical based programming language, where flowcharts are the method of creating the program structure rather than the use of a text based programming language. Not only does this provide a method of programming which is free of syntax errors, it also allows for a simple drag and drop of icons and rapid program development. Flowchart functions are configured by adjusting their parameter properties. For example, when implementing a while loop, users can configure loop conditions such as the number of loop executions or the break condition of the loop, such as when a variable reaches a certain value. Within Flowcode v6 we have also developed a large library of standard components, utilised through component macros, such as LEDs, switches, LCD screens, various communications modules and more. Component macros vastly simplify the programming of otherwise complex systems. For example, by dragging a single component macro into a flowchart the user can initialise an LCD display, typically a whole section of C or assembler code would be required to achieve this.
In this article we will demonstrate the ability to import a 3D model into Flowcode of an object developed within SolidWorks. Following this we will detail how to create a working electro-mechanical component using the newly imported 3D model and the existing electro-mechanical components within Flowcode. This would allow users to simulate an electro-mechanical system based on real life objects. The object used within this example is a wind turbine. The ability to create complex mechanical systems within a dedicated drawing package such as SolidWorks, and import these models into Flowcode, allows vast flexibility in electro-mechanical simulations. These simulations no longer have to be performed on a 2D plane, or feature graphical representations of complex components, but instead, users can create accurate 3D models and simulate them within a 3D design environment. A task which other electrical simulation programs cannot achieve.
The figure below shows the 3D model of the wind turbine within SolidWorks. The model was exported from SolidWorks as 3 separate objects; the tower, the nacelle and the turbine blades. This will allow us to move the nacelle and turbine blades independent of each other, simulating the movement of a wind turbine relative to wind speed and direction. In order to export the files into a Flowcode compatible file, the SolidWorks files must be converted to the .OBJ file format using a 3rd party exporter, however, we aim to become fully SolidWorks compatible in the near future. Once the files are in the appropriate file format it is a case of dragging the .OBJ files into the Flowcode design environment for characterisation. This requires the user to align the objects as required, so that the nacelle sits directly at the top of the tower, and the blades sit at the front of the nacelle.
The figure below shows the wind turbine component correctly aligned within Flowcode. A basic house structure was also constructed within Flowcode from the basic drawing components to provide a sense of direction as the nacelle rotates.
Within Flowcode we can now create a moving wind turbine by implementing two stepper motors into the design. The first motor will be configured to rotate the nacelle of the wind turbine. In this example we have configured the first motor to rotate the nacelle of the wind turbine. The second motor is configured to rotate the wind turbine blades at the same time as the nacelle rotates. The flowchart to achieve this can be seen below.
Finally, we have created a short video, published on YouTube, demonstrating the wind turbine in action:
Speak soon and let us know if you need any help/assistance.
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