A dynamic system is simulated by computing its states at successive time steps over a specified time span, using information provided by the model. The process of computing the successive states of a system from its model is known as solving the model. No single method of solving a model suffices for all systems. Accordingly, a set of programs, known as solvers, are provided that each embody a particular approach to solving a model. The Configuration Parameters dialog box allows you to choose the solver most suitable for your model (see Compare Solvers).
Fixed-step solvers solve the model at regular time intervals from the beginning to the end of the simulation. The size of the interval is known as the step size. You can specify the step size or let the solver choose the step size. Generally, decreasing the step size increases the accuracy of the results while increasing the time required to simulate the system.
Variable-step solvers vary the step size during the simulation, reducing the step size to increase accuracy when a model's states are changing rapidly and increasing the step size to avoid taking unnecessary steps when the model's states are changing slowly. Computing the step size adds to the computational overhead at each step but can reduce the total number of steps, and hence simulation time, required to maintain a specified level of accuracy for models with rapidly changing or piecewise continuous states.
The Simulink product provides both continuous and discrete solvers.
Continuous solvers use numerical integration to compute a model's continuous states at the current time step based on the states at previous time steps and the state derivatives. Continuous solvers rely on the individual blocks to compute the values of the model's discrete states at each time step.
Mathematicians have developed a wide variety of numerical integration techniques for solving the ordinary differential equations (ODEs) that represent the continuous states of dynamic systems. An extensive set of fixed-step and variable-step continuous solvers are provided, each of which implements a specific ODE solution method (see Compare Solvers).
Discrete solvers exist primarily to solve purely discrete models. They compute the next simulation time step for a model and nothing else. In performing these computations, they rely on each block in the model to update its individual discrete states. They do not compute continuous states.
You must use a continuous solver to solve a model that contains both continuous and discrete states. You cannot use a discrete solver because discrete solvers cannot handle continuous states. If, on the other hand, you select a continuous solver for a model with no states or discrete states only, Simulink software uses a discrete solver.
Two discrete solvers are provided: A fixed-step discrete solver and a variable-step discrete solver. The fixed-step solver by default chooses a step size and hence simulation rate fast enough to track state changes in the fastest block in your model. The variable-step solver adjusts the simulation step size to keep pace with the actual rate of discrete state changes in your model. This can avoid unnecessary steps and hence shorten simulation time for multirate models (see Sample Times in Systems for more information).
Some continuous solvers subdivide the simulation time span into major and minor time steps, where a minor time step represents a subdivision of the major time step. The solver produces a result at each major time step. It uses results at the minor time steps to improve the accuracy of the result at the major time step.
Usually the integration step size is only related to the current step size and the current integration error. However, for signals whose derivative changes rapidly, you can obtain a more accurate integration results by including the derivative input information at each time step. To do so, enable the Model Configuration Parameters > Solver > Shape Preservation option.