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This paper discusses the development of embedded controllers on a reconfigurable multiprocessor system using field programmable gate array (FPGA) technology. The system is reconfigurable in hardware and software in the sense that certain components may be reused in different applications, hence allowing rapid development of embedded control systems. Concurrent real-time operation can be achieved by utilising hardware and software modules consisting of dedicated hardware cores and real-time operating systems. For demonstration purposes, we discuss the development of a system consisting of a network-enabled master processor that handles two slave processors each controlling a mechatronic system. The user interface is implemented using an internet browser through the master processor which allows monitoring and supervisory control of the individual systems. A multi-threaded real-time operating system runs on each of the softcore processors which allows flexibility and modularity in software design whereas pre-designed hardware modules on the FPGA chip can be utilised for building comuting hardware for control applications. Experimental results are presented for illustrating how control applications can be developed and deployed using modular components and the hardware/software environment.
Date of Publication: November 2010