Introduction

Simulink (Simulation and Link) is an extension of MATLAB by Mathworks Inc. It works with MATLAB to offer modeling, simulation, and analysis of dynamical systems under a graphical user interface (GUI) environment.  The construction of a model is simplified with click-and-drag mouse operations. Simulink includes a comprehensive block library of toolboxes for both linear and nonlinear analyses. Models are hierarchical, which allow using both top-down and bottom-up approaches. As Simulink is an integral part of MATLAB, it is easy to switch back and forth during the analysis process and thus, the user may take full advantage of features offered in both environments.  This tutorial presents the basic features of Simulink and is focused on control systems as it has been written for students in my control systems course.

This tutorial has been written for Simulink v.5 and v.6.

Getting Started

To start a Simulink session, you'd need to bring up Matlab program first.

From Matlab command window, enter:

>> simulink

Alternately, you may click on the Simulink icon located on the toolbar as shown:

Simulink's library browser window like one shown below will pop up presenting the block set for model construction.

To see the content of the blockset, click on the "+" sign at the beginning of each toolbox.

To start a model click on the NEW FILE ICON as shown in the screenshot above. Alternately, you may use keystrokes CTRL+N.

A new window will appear on the screen. You will be constructing your model in this window. Also in this window the constructed model is simulated. A screenshot of a typical working (model) window is shown below:

To become familiarized with the structure and the environment of Simulink, you are encouraged to explore the toolboxes and scan their contents. You may not know what they are all about at first, but perhaps you could catch on the organisation of these toolboxes according to their categories. For instance, you may see that the Control System toolbox consists of the Linear Time Invariant (LTI) system library and the MATLAB functions can be found under Function and Tables of the Simulink main toolbox. A good way to learn Simulink (or any computer program in general) is to practice and explore. Making mistakes is part of the learning curve. So, fear not you should be!

A simple model is used here to introduce some basic features of Simulink. Please follow the steps below to construct a simple model.

STEP 1: CREATING BLOCKS.

From BLOCK SET CATEGORIES section of the SIMULINK LIBRARY BROWSER window, click on the "+" sign next to the Simulink group to expand the tree and select (click on) Sources.

A set of blocks will appear in the BLOCKSET group. Click on the Sine Wave block and drag it to the workspace window (also known as model window).

Now you have established a source of your model.

NOTE: It is advisable that you save your model at some point early on so that if your PC crashes you wouldn't loose too much time reconstructing your model. This is among the reasons why I prefer Linux or Unix!

I am going to save this model under the filename: "simexample1". To save a model, you may click on the floppy diskette icon . or from FILE menu, select Save or using keystrokes CTRL+S. All Simulink model file will have an extension ".mdl". Simulink recognises file with .mdl extension as a simulation model (similar to how MATLAB recognises files with the extension .m as an MFile).

Continue to build your model by adding more components (or blocks) to your model window. We'll continue to add a Scope from Sinks library, an Integrator block from Continuous library, and a Mux block from Signal Routing library.

NOTE: If you wish to locate a block knowing its name, you may enter the name in the SEARCH WINDOW (at Find prompt) and Simulink will bring up the specified block.

To move the blocks around, simply click on it and drag it to a desired location.

Once you've dragged over all necessary blocks, the workspace window should consist of the following components:

You may remove (delete) a block by simply clicking on it once to turn on the "select mode" (with four corner boxes) and use the DEL key or keys combination CTRL-X. 

STEP 2: MAKING CONNECTIONS

To establish connections between the blocks, move the cursor to the output port represented by ">" sign on the block. Once placed at a port, the cursor will turn into a cross "+" enabling you to make connection between blocks.

To make a connection: left-click while holding down the control key (on your keyboard) and drag from source port to a destination port.

The connected model is shown below.

A sine signal is generated by the Sine Wave block (a source) and is displayed by the scope. The integrated sine signal is sent to scope for display along with the original signal from the source via the Mux, whose function is to mutiplex signals in form of scalar, vector, or matrix into a bus.

STEP 3: RUNNING SIMULATION

You now may run the simulation of the simple system above by clicking on the play button . Alternately, you may use keystrokes CTRL+T, or choose Start submenu (under Simulation menu).

Double click on the Scope block to display of the scope.

To view/edit the parameters, simply double click on the block of interest.

Handling of Blocks and Lines

The table below describes the actions and the corresponding keystrokes or mouse operations (Windows versions).

Actions Keystokes or Mouse Actions
Copying a block from a library Drag the block to the model window with the left button on the mouse OR use select the COPY and PASTE from EDIT menu.
Duplicating blocks in a model Hold down the CTRL key and select the block with the left mouse drag the block to a new location.
Display block's parameters
Double click on the block
Flip a block CTRL-F
Rotate a block (clockwise 90 deg @ each keystroke)
CTRL-R
Changing blocks' names
Click on block's label and position the cursor to desired place.
Disconnecting a block
hold down the SHIFT key and drag the block to a new location
Drawing a diagonal line
hold down the SHIFT key while dragging the mouse with the left button
Dividing a line move the cursor to the line to where you want to create the vertex and use the left button on the mouse to drag the line while holding down the SHIFT key

Annotations

To add an annotation to your model, place the cursor at an unoccupied area in your model window and double click (left button). A small rectangular area will appear with a cursor prompting for your input.

To delete an annotation, hold down the SHIFT key while selecting the annotation, then press the DELETE or BACKSPACE key. You may also change font type and colour from FORMAT menu. Make sure that the block is selected before making the change.

 

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