In recent years, HIL testing has been gaining ground in various industries. But what exactly makes this type of testing superior to other methods, and who does it benefit the most?
Superior to software or physical testing, hardware-in-loop or HIL provides unparalleled insight into how an embedded system will behave in a deployment environment. This method allows for significantly more efficient testing, leading to the faster development of electrical devices.
The purpose of HIL testing is to validate connected and fully-powered electrical devices. This powerful testing method allows for systematic testing of the embedded software, using the same control unit that it will run on in its intended end application. Meanwhile, the device is connected to the same physical interfaces with which it will operate.
The signals emitted by these interfaces only work within the test system, enabling it to emulate the environment surrounding the control unit. Environmental components that would affect these signals are simulated by the test system software.
Who uses power HIL?
For electrical engineers, it is crucial to carefully validate the operating conditions of electrical equipment before connecting it to a grid, electric vehicles, or other electrical systems. No wonder even Porsche Engineering is a fan of the method, using it, among other things, to adapt vehicle functions to local needs.
HIL systems can be used to safely perform tests that go beyond the limits of the physical components. What's more, they can simulate stress test scenarios that could not take place in a realistic time frame during a physical test. In addition, they can work in combination with physical tests while the other subcomponents are still under development.
Such early testing reduces the need for expensive and time-consuming lab and field tests. HIL testing helps to uncover hidden bugs, improve software quality and facilitate an early launch of the product.
In some cases, the embedded software and hardware have to meet even more stringent criteria. The software under test must work with real-time accuracy, simulating the working environment in which the control unit will operate.
But how much does this technology cost? Can only Porsche-sized giant companies afford it?
HIL used to be considered a serious investment that only pays off if the product in question has strict safety requirements. Hence, it has mostly been used in the automotive and aerospace industries.
Today, this is no longer the case: the use of HIL systems has simplified development processes to such a dramatic rate that its use can pay off within months. Companies can find and make use of this type of testing in many places around the world.
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