North State Software - UML State Machine Code Generators

Learn about:

..:: UML State Machine Framework

Success Stories:

..:: Robotics
..:: Booklet Maker
..:: Microscopy


..:: 8/1/2011
NSF V2.0 Release

..:: 2/24/2013
NSF Lower Cost

..:: 8/13/2014
NSF Open Source

Protochips, Inc. develops analytical tools for understanding nanoscale materials.  Their in situ microscopy products transform electron and optical microscopes from cameras into complete nanoscale laboratories, helping advance the study of materials for the life and materials sciences in ways that were previously not possible.


Protochips latest product, Atmosphere™, allows users to view their samples in a controlled gas environment, providing them with the ability to see dynamic, real-time material behaviors within the electron microscope.  Protochips partnered with North State Software to develop the user interface and control system for this product.  The system needed an intuitive, workflow-based user interface which would allow the user to easily and safely change the sample environment, including temperature, gas type, and gas pressure. The system also needed the ability to regulate sample temperature while simulataneously changing environmental pressure.

Customer Testimonial

“I highly recommend North State Software and Services. [Their] team has provided our company sophisticated, professional controls and applications software that has enabled us to meet highly aggressive product launch schedules. Their technical ability to develop solid, scalable software is as good or better than any in their field. However, what truly distinguishes the services they provide goes beyond their execution to a statement of work; they are able to take broad requirements and lead our company's product and design teams to finely detailed specifications necessary to meet the needs of our market. We look forward to working with them in years to come .”

-- Dan Gardiner, Director of Engineering at Protochips, Inc

Solution and Results

Protochips Atmosphere UI

In the first phase of the project, North State Software and Protochips engineering worked closely to select the control system hardware components and build a prototype system. North State Software recommended a fieldbus based IO system to simplify the wiring between user interface and controls hardware, which are typically not co-located. The prototype software consisted of a simple graphical user interface to directly control the low-level IO for the pumps, valves, pressure sensors, and thermal components.

Using UML state machine diagrams and the North State Controls™/Framework™ to implement the prototype controls software made it easy to transition to the productization phase of the project. The low-level state machines were easily integrated into higher level processes that implemented more complex behaviors like setting up an experiment, regulating temperature, and changing pressure. The diagrams also provided documentation and a communication mechanism between engineers.

For the production user interface, Protochips graphic designers and product managers worked closely with the North State team to develop meaningful graphics and a workflow that is both intuitive and powerful. The user is guided from setup to completion with options including automated pump and purge cycles, leak checks, and experiment setup, all of which are completely computer controlled. The user simply inputs the desired pressure and temperature and Atmosphere does the rest, while constantly maintaining a stable environment monitoring pressures and temperatures for safety.

And, while on the surface it all looks simple to the user, under the covers there is some sophisticated data processing going on to ensure the system holds a steady temperature and is operating in a safe manner. All of this was made possible only by partnering with the Protochip's R&D team to solve the challenges along the way.

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