Students complete hands-on activities to control and compare common motors in order to make wise system design decisions. Designed for NI ELVIS III

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When an electronic system must manipulate a mechanical component, an actuator is necessary. Because of constraints on cost and complexity, the vast majority of these actuators consist of a rotary drive connected to an armature. Understanding the various types of available actuators, as well as the differences between them, is key to making informed design decisions. Each lab in this manual begins with an overview of the basics of interfacing and commanding the most common mechatronic actuators. Students then investigate the essential decisions and comparisons made in mechatronics to gain insight and intuition into the design process.

Quanser Inc.


Upon completing these labs, students will be able to:

  • Describe the electromechanical principles behind rotary actuators.
  • Identify differences in performace between various actuators.
  • Control various actuators using digital and analog signals.
  • Evaluate which actuator would be preferable for a particular application and why.




Level University, First or Second Year
Topic Mechatronics
Style Laboratory, Project Based Learning
Prerequisite Skills
  • Introduction to Physics or Equivalent
  • Basic LabVIEW Proficency


DC Motors

This lab focuses on the two principal types of DC motors: brushed and brushless. Through hands-on activities, students will analyze the differences between these motors in form, function, and application, as well as the implications of these differences.

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Power Amplifiers

This lab focuses on the amplifiers used to drive the brushed DC motor. The first section of the lab outlines the operation of a linear power amplifier, with a focus on the simplicity of the operation. The second section introduces the operational theory of the pulse width modulation amplifier, with a focus on the comparative performance of this amplifier. The two amplifiers are finally compared in the context of actuator efficiency and control.

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Position-Controlled Actuators

This lab covers the principal commercial solutions for simple position-controlled actuation. The first section of the lab introduces the stepper motor, including mechanical design and control requirements. Various control signal patterns are considered, including full-step, half-step, and wave stepping. The second section covers the mechanical design and operation of the commercial servomotor. The PWM command signal for position control is contrasted to the open-loop PWM control of the DC motor. In the final section, the stepper and servo motors are compared and contrasted with regards to design requirements such as holding torque, position accuracy, and control precision.

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Introduction to Actuator Control

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Engineering laboratory solution for project-based learning that combines instrumentation and embedded design with a web-driven experience, delivering a greater understanding of engineering fundamentals and system design.

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Quanser Mechatronic Actuators Board for NI ELVIS III

Quanser Mechatronic Actuators Board for NI ELVIS III

The Quanser Mechatronic Actuators Application board is an ideal tool to introduce a variety of common actuators and demonstrate their advantages, interfacing and operation, as well as design considerations and limitations.

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LabVIEW is systems engineering software for applications that require test, measurement, and control with rapid access to hardware and data insights.

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Detailed Requirements

Required Software

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  • NI ELVIS III Software Bundle (2018 or later)
    • LabVIEW (Requires license)
    • LabVIEW Real-Time Module (Requires license)
    • LabVIEW FPGA Module (Requires license)
    • NI ELVIS III Toolkit

Required Hardware

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