ACS336 Hardware-in-the-Loop & Rapid Control Prototyping

Module Description (subject to change)

This course represents an opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience of designing and implementing advanced controllers upon a challenging, real-world control problem.

Uniquely, each student will be issued with their own, portable control hardware for the duration of the course. Students will learn how to interface such a system to industry- standard software using a data-acquisition device, before developing their own simulation models of the hardware. These models will be used to synthesise a feedback controller, and verified in simulation before being implemented upon the hardware. The resultant controller will then be refined in a cycle of rapid control prototyping.

Credits: 10 (Spring semester)

Pre-requisites: ACS317

Restrictions: Proficiency in Matlab and Simulink strongly recommended.

Module Leader

Dr Payam Soulatiantork
Amy Johnson Building

If you have any questions about the module please talk to us during the lectures or the labs in the first instance. It is likely that other students will learn from any questions you ask as well, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Outside of lectures please contact one of us via email, or drop in to see one of us.

Other teaching staff

Ben TaylorBen Taylor

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module students will be able to:

  1. Operate a real-world system using high-level design software and data-acquisition hardware. [EP3m]
  2. Appraise and apply methods to adequately model a real-world system. [EA4m, EA6m]
  3. Describe, apply and appraise the differences between, firstly, a real-world system and a simulation model of that system, and secondly, the simulation model and a model used for control system design. [EA1m, EA3m]
  4. Apply knowledge of control methodologies to create suitable controller designs to meet set performance criteria for a real-world system. [D3m, D4m, D7m]
  5. Describe and appraise the use and relevance of hardware-in-the-loop and rapid control prototyping in the design cycle. [SM1m, EA4m]
  6. Present and defend control system performance and communicate underpinning principles. [D6m]

This module satisfies the AHEP3 (Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes, Third Edition) Learning Outcomes that are listed in brackets after each learning outcome above. For further details on AHEP3 Learning Outcomes, see the downloads section of our accreditation webpage.



  • Introduction to rapid control prototyping.
  • Summary of data acquisition and control devices as specialised embedded systems.
  • Soft vs hard real-time data acquisition and control.
  • The relevance of rapid control prototyping in the industrial design cycle.
  • Introduction to data acquisition and control with LabVIEW.
  • Modelling of multibody mechanical systems via the Euler-Lagrange method.
  • Modelling of complex dynamical systems via system identification.
  • Implementation of a high fidelity simulation model in Simulink.
  • Control system design, development, test and evaluation.
Teaching Methods

Learning and Teaching Methods

NOTE: This summary of teaching methods is representative of a normal Semester. Owing to the ongoing disruption from Covid-19, the exact method of delivery will be different in 2020/21.

  • 8 hours lectures
  • 22 hours supervised laboratory time
  • 70 hours independent study
Teaching Materials

Learning and Teaching Materials

All teaching materials will be available via Blackboard (MOLE).
Course hardware will be distributed to students during a timetabled lab-session in either week 1 or week 2.



The module is assessed as follows:

  • Laboratory exercises (equal weighting per exercise, worth 10% overall)
  • 2 mini assignments (10% each)
  • Take-home Assessment - 35%
  • Oral viva – 35%

No resit assignments are available for this module.



  • During the laboratory time, students will be able to receive feedback from the demonstrators present.
  • Mini-assignments will be returned to students after grading.
  • A brief summary of how the class performed in the oral examination and lab report will be provided.
Student Evaluation

Student Evaluation

Students are encouraged to provide feedback during the module direct to the lecturer. Students will also have the opportunity to provide formal feedback via the Faculty of Engineering Student Evaluation Survey at the end of the module.

You can view the latest Department response to the survey feedback here.

Recommended Reading

Recommended Reading

  • Astrom, K.J. and Murray, R.M, Feedback Systems – An Introduction for Scientists and Engineers (download:
  • Getting Started with LabVIEW, June 2013, NI Part Number: 373427J-01
  • Nise, N.S, 2011, Control systems engineering (6th edition), Wiley, ISBN 9780470646120 [Available in Information Commons, 629.8(N)]
  • Dorf, R.C and Bishop, R.H, 2008, Modern Control systems, 11th edition, Addison-Wesley [Available in Information Commons, 629.8312(D)]
  • Ogata, K, 2010, Modern control engineering, Prentice Hall, ISBN 0-13-261389-1 [Available in Information Commons, 629.8(O)]
  • de Silva, C.W, 2009, Modeling and Control of Engineering Systems, CRC Press, Taylor and Francis, 978-1-4200-7686-8 Assessment [Available in Information Commons, 629.8(S)]