Thursday, April 29, 2010

What Do You Get with a QUARC 2.0 Demo License

Have you tried QUARC 2.0, the latest version of our rapid control prototyping software? You can easily get a free 30 days license which allows you to run the built-in demos even without the hardware, or build and run your own real-time control models in Simulink.

The built-in demos will:
- Introduce you to the basic QUARC features and integration with Simulink
- Show you how to use Quanser's Hardware-In-The-Loop (HIL) framework
- Demonstrates QUARC communication capabilities based on Quanser's Stream API framework
- Explain and show dynamic reconfiguration capabilty
- Present some of the third-party devices you can interface to with QUARC
- Walk you through the possible QUARC 3D Visualization features
- Help you get familiar with QUARC MATLAB functions, such as I/O operations, communications using the Quanser protocol-independent Stream API, or automating QUARC operations from a MATLAB script, etc.

Let's look at some of them a bit closer:
QUARC Communication Demos
One of the demos consists of two Simulink models: a server and a client. It demonstrates how to use the Basic Communication Blockset from the QUARC Targets Library to establish a connection between two Simulink models.

QUARC Visualization Demos
The QUARC Visualization demos demonstrate a wide range of features, including loading of a mesh and texture and displaying it in the standalone Quanser 3D viewer. You will learn how to animate and create a hierarchical relationship between the body and the propeller of an airplane or how to use the QUARC Visualization blocks with dummy actors to simplify actor animation.
We have created a Visualization of a KUKA KR5 sixx R850 Robot, so you can control it virtually, without having the actual robot in your lab.

One of the demos demonstrates a Simulink model and a MATLAB GUI created using the GUIDE application. The MATLAB GUI can be used to build, start and stop the QUARC model in addition to perform real-time plotting and online parameter tuning on the model.

QUARC Model Referencing Demo
This demo showcases QUARC's ability to support the model referencing feature from Simulink

But it is always best to try it for yourself - so don't hesitate and ask for your free 30 days demo license here. You can also contact one of our Academic Solutions Specialists that will walk you through the QUARC's features and capabilities during a personal, one-on-one live demo. Click here to request it.

Quanser Introduces VoltPAQ - a New Generation of Power Amplifiers

Most of the people working with Quanser's experiments are familiar with the UPM power amplifiers. As reliable as they are, they were designed a while ago and even with the improvements, the time has come to move forward. Our Electronics Group took this task over and came up with a whole new series of linear power amplifiers named VoltPAQ. Using the latest technology, we achieved high performance parameters, while reducing the size and weight of the VoltPAQ unit. All these make the new amplifiers even more affordable.

Design rendering of the new VoltPAQ-X1 power amplifier

VoltPAQ was designed to run Quanser experiments. There are more than 80 of them and to address their various requirements, we came up with three VolPAQ variations: with one (X1), two (X2) and four (X4) output channels. Each VoltPAQ channel has maximum voltage output of +/-24V, maximum current output of 4.2A and power output of 100W.

To extend the capabilities of VoltPAQ, we also offer an Analog Box. It will allow you to read and power external sensors. The Analog Box easily connects sensors on Quanser's experiments to our data acquisition boards while providing clean power to sensitive sensors.

VoltPAQs can be used to drive multiple actuators and are suitable for single and multi-DOF experiments, such as the 3 DOF Helicopter. This compact and portable solution for power amplification will be released this summer. To learn more, contact us at

- Fayez Khan -

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Engineering Deans Gather and Discuss Crucial Issues Facing their Schools

Paul Gilbert, CEO of Quanser and I recently participated in the American Association for Engineering Education (ASEE) Engineering Deans Institute (EDI), held in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The Annual ASEE EDI meetings provide an opportunity for engineering deans, industry leaders and those in important roles in research and government to gather and discuss crucial issues facing their schools, colleges and profession. This year's meeting drew over 125 US deans and 45 corporate sponsors representing 26 companies.

The theme of the 2010 meeting was 'Rising above the Economic Storm". Some of the key threads discussed were:

- The importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in the secondary schools to encourage and prepare students for the study of engineering
- How the National Academy of Engineering's Grand Challenges can educate and motivate K-12 students toward engineering and will affect future federal funding, impact colleges' and universities' strategic planning and offer a structure to break down the disciplinary boundaries and enabling interdisciplinary scholarship along societal issues
- The shift amongst college students away from a primary focus on their self-interest to a desire to make a difference and help solve the world's problems
- The continued impact and importance of international collaboration
- A general belief that future budget cuts, if any, will be spread out enough so engineering programs will endure without additional closure or consolidation, and stabilize

Paul delivered Tuesday's luncheon keynote addressing the issue of "Preparing Effective Global Engineers". He presented Quanser's mission of fostering leadership and global responsibility through creative engineering, illustrating its application through four key, practical and cost-effective strategies which Quanser has helped many schools to implement:
- Introducing Hands-on Learning
- Promoting International Collaboration
- Teaching Rapid Prototyping
- Appealing Early to Future Generations

I will be following up with the deans around the innovative concept of developing "Collaborative Undergraduate Labs". Labs, in which undergraduates will interact with other students in different locations, or even different countries, to develop fundamental collaborative skills - the skills now demanded of a Global Engineer. Quanser is taking up this challenged and working to identify and partner with leading colleges and universities to develop pedagogy and pilot studies that can lead to truly effective Collaborative Undergrad Lab environments. Look for further details in the next few weeks.

- Alan Jacobs -

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Enable Educators, Engage Researchers, and Empower Industry to Engineer a Brighter Future

A few weeks ago, I had a good fortune of presenting at the annual Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Heads Association, or ECEDHA, conference held in Florida. This year's theme was "Looking Forward to the Next 25 Years".

For the first time, the ECEDHA organization extended the invitation to the industry partners to share our thoughts on the future of engineering education and research. I presented on how educators can captivate, motivate and graduate better engineering students by leveraging cutting-edge equipment for hands-on learning in a lab that is shared by several engineering departments. In short, the presentation describes how Quanser enables educators, engages researchers and empowers industry to engineer a brighter future. Click on the picture below to watch the 20 minute presentation from the 2010 ECEDHA Annual Conference:

Following the presentation I handed out an editorial titled "The Future of Engineering". This editorial discusses the formula for a superior reputation, finer graduates and vast savings - advantages of multi-disciplinary control laboratories. To download the editorial, click here.

This year's ECEDHA Conference centered around ABET alignment. Dr. Hakan Gurocak, Director of School of Engineering and Computer Sciences at Washington State University and veteran ABET reviewer, recently presented a paper titled "ABET Assessment" at the 2009 ASEE Annual Conference. This paper notes that about 35% of the 59 programs evaluated at 20 institutions in 2007 had shortcomings in criterion 3. With the demand for systems and mechatronic engineers ever increasing, Department Heads are looking for ways to streamline their accreditation process. To continue this dialogue, Quanser will be hosting a guided webinar discussion amongst ECE Department Heads to address key ABET accreditation challenges and successes. To be a part of the discussion, please email, or join Quanser LinkedIn group.

Throughout the weekend, several presenters, including myself, made references to the "Grand Challenges of Engineering"; these challenges were put forward by the National Academy of Engineering. Here are some of the challenges the Academy defines as most important for this century: make solar energy economical; provide energy from fusion; develop carbon sequestration methods; manage the nitrogen cycle; provide access to clean water; restore and improve public infrastructure; advance health informatics; engineer better medicines; reverse-engineer the brain; prevent nuclear terror; secure cyberspace; enhance virtual reality; advance personalized learning; engineer the tools of scientific discovery. This website is a key resource for all engineering enthusiasts and visionaries.

Today, the world faces a series of systemic failures - financial crisis, security crisis, energy crisis, climate crisis, population crisis and health care crisis, to name a few. Building a sustainable world will start with building engineers who adopt a systems approach to engineering. We look forward to helping you captivate, motivate and graduate the multi-disciplinarian engineers of tomorrow.

- Sunny Ray -

Friday, April 23, 2010

Quanser Qlimbers Helped Raise Millions

On April 15, a record-breaking 6,420 climbers conquered Toronto's CN Tower (no wonder the stairway was so crowded, noted Rachel, one of the Quanser Qlimbers Team). These wild-life loving people helped raise over $1.2 million for the World Wildlife Fund.

The best climber this year ran 1,770 stairs in 10:49 min. Quanser Qlimbers weren't left in the dust. Among 318 co-ed teams they finished on the 115th place, with the average time of 21:06 min.

Quanser Qlimbers - from the right: Rachel, Leor, Julio and Hernando

Congratulations, guys! Great inspiration for future Quanser Qlimbers who could not join this time. And special thanks to Leor for his generous donation to the cause and for organizing the team!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Alan Jacobs Joins Quanser to Lead Initiatives with US-based Universities and Colleges

A few weeks ago we welcomed a new Quanser team member: Alan Jacobs joined the company in the role of Director of U.S. Academic Relations, responsible for planning, building and leading Quanser's strategic and tactical initiatives in U.S.

Passionate about education, Alan brings to our team more than 20 years of experience in education programs for technology companies. An accomplished professional, Alan has previously held positions with Autodesk as Senior Manager of Global Education, Avid Technology as Senior Manager of Worldwide Education and with Bentley Systems, Inc., where he was Director of Worldwide Education.

Alan holds a Masters of Education and a Masters of Regional Planning degrees from the University of Massachusetts and has special training in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and in Mediation.

In his free time Alan is dedicated to his family and sports. As a third-degree black belt in Tang Soo Do, he enjoys teaching his son's Little Dragons karate class and coaching his junior baseball and soccer teams. He is an enthusiastic fan of Red Sox Nation and is excited that Spring is in the air so he can go back to playing center field for the Cape Codgers. With his new position at Quanser, we hope he will still find time to read a David Halberstam book or work on getting tickets to see David Gray in Boston this summer.

Please help us extend a very warm welcome to Alan in his new role at Quanser.

Quanser 6-DOF Open-Architecture Robot

Quanser is presenting it's latest DENSO 6-axis articulated robot. The term 'articulated' is used for robots that consist of rotary/revolute joints. These joints are linked to each other in a serial configuration. The first three joints form an anthropomorphic arm while the second three form a wrist robot. This enables the robot to position and orient its end-effector within a large workspace, similarly to a human arm that can access any position and orientation within its reach, except that it has an extra joint.

This 6-Axis robot is open-architecture, powered by our real-time software, QUARC. QUARC's blocksets along with MATLAB/Simulink provide the user with an advanced user-friendly environment which facilitates and accelerates real-time programming of this robotic manipulator.

Quanser's DENSO 6-DOF Open-Architecture Robot has a wide and still growing range of applications, such as tele-operation tasks. It can be used in a robot-assisted surgery as an instrument holder or as a guidance system adding more precision and dexterity to the operation. Another medical applications in rehabilitation and nursing assistance come to mind as well.

In addition to medical applications, Quanser's DENSO 6-DOF Open-Architecture robot can be mounted on an unmanned vehicle as a camera/tool holder in an autonomous or semi-autonomous mission. Again, it can be tele-operated as a robotic manipulator, helping in remote or hazardous environments such as bomb disposal or mine sweeping scenarios. Users can also program the robot to do accurate automated tasks repeatedly in short cycle times. For instance, it can be programmed for such industrial tasks as assembling, welding, cutting, injection, and extraction.

Quanser's DENSO 6-DOF Open-Architecture robot has its place in university engineering labs: Using QUARC, this industrial robot can be rapidly interfaced in a fully open-architecture scenario. That makes it a perfect system to teach mechatronics, robotics, and mechanics. Plus, you can use it for research and development - for instance as a part of a humanoid robot combined with artificial intelligence.

In the above video we are using our high definition haptic device as a master robot to control the motions of the 6-Axis robot in the Cartesian workspace. This is called a bilateral teleoperation setup where the forces and torques at the tip of the robot are measured and applied back to the operator through the haptic device. In order to control the ball on my racket as it bounces up and down, I use the force feedback and apply a scaled motion command. The robot control loop is running at 8kHz while the force/torque sensing is at the rate of 10kHz. The robot is incredibly fast and precise. As a next step, we plan to play a real ping-pong match between robot and human, so stay tuned for this exciting video!

Quanser robot is made to be programmed by humans to assist humans with high speeds and accuracy.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Quanser Staff Steps Up to Support World Wildlife Fund

Just a few weeks ago, while dining at the top of Toronto's CN Tower with international guests attending Quanser's Distributor Conference, our team did not imagine their next visit to the 553.3m (1,815 ft.) tower will involve no dinner and no elevator ride!

Four brave folks from sales, marketing, production and tech support stepped up to form a team called "Quanser Qlimbers". On April 15, the team members - Leor Grebler, Rachel Oliver, Julio Acevedo and Hernando Pineros will climb the tower's 1,776 steps in support of World Wildlife Fund's 20th Annual Canada Life CN Tower Climb. What will be the average time of the Quanser Qlimber? Vote in our poll.

Good luck Quanser Qlimbers!