Startup of the experimental physics industrial control system at NSTX Page: 1 of 3
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Startup of the Experimental Physics Industrial
Control System at NSTX*
P. Sichta, J. Dong
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, P.O. Box 450, Princeton, New Jersey 08543
Abstract--The Experimental Physics Industrial Control
System (EPICS) is a set of software which is being used as
the basis of the National Spherical Torus Experiment's
(NSTX) Process Control System, a major element of the
NSTX's Central Instrumentation & Control System.
EPICS is a result of a co-development effort started by
several U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratories.
EPICS is actively supported through an international
collaboration made up of government and industrial users.
EPICS' good points include portability, scalability, and
extensibility. A drawback for small experiments is that a
wide range of software skills are necessary to get the
software tools running for the process engineers. Our
experience in designing, developing, operating, and
maintaining NSTX's EPICS (system) will be reviewed.
I. Why EPICS?
During the NSTX design phase the group responsible
for the central control system assimilated system
requirements. Evaluation criteria was developed and a
product search was conducted to elicit candidate
systems. The selection process eventually led to the
choice of EPICS [1,2] as the software for the NSTX
Central Instrumentation and Control System 
(CI&C). There was an optimistic undertone that once
NSTX had some experience with EPICS, it might be a
catalyst in providing benefits to the national fusion
program, as observed in the accelerator and telescope
The EPICS software was available at no cost to the
NSTX project. Much of the non-EPICS auxiliary
software was freely available from the "GNU Project"
and other sources. This was important in order to
remain within the extremely tight NSTX construction
budget. Of course, the control system wasn't free,
operating systems and hardware had to be selected and
Technically, EPICS was attractive because it is:
* completely open,
" capable of running on Unix,
* runs on computers from competing suppliers,
* users were already using similar types of process
* scalable, to support future growth.
The only factor meriting special consideration was technical
risk. While commercial alternatives can offer the security of
product support and training, experience has shown that
attention to small-market products does not always match the
urgency of the customer. In other words, given the open
nature of EPICS coupled with the listserver-based
communications among users, problem-resolution can be put
under control of the project.
II. Getting EPICS Running
EPICS is a suite of software applications running in a client-
server model. Fig. 1 shows a hardware block diagram of an
OPI Disnlav Mana
- Alarm Handler
- Trend Data
Channel Access Server IOC
Database Access and Scanning
Fig. 1 Basic EPICS Architecture
* Work performed under the auspices of the USDOE by Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory under Contract No. DE-AC02-
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Sichta, P. & Dong, J. Startup of the experimental physics industrial control system at NSTX, report, December 17, 1999; Princeton, New Jersey. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc702314/m1/1/: accessed November 16, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.