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Explore Types of Model Components

Simulink® provides multiple ways for you to organize your model into components. The different types of components target different requirements.

As you define a component, consider these potential requirements.

  • File contention — You can have larger components if only one person is working on each. If you must share components between several people, you should divide the design into smaller logical pieces. If multiple people must edit the same file, see Port or Restore Model Changes in Comparison Report.

  • Reusability — If you expect to use a group of blocks multiple times in a model, define the group of blocks in a reusable component. By avoiding duplication, you make maintaining the model easier. To refactor an existing model with duplication, see Refactor Models to Improve Component Reuse (Simulink Check).

  • Code generation — If you must generate standalone code for a physical component, such as a digital controller, you should have one component that represents the physical component and has a well-defined interface.

  • Verification cost — If part of a model changes frequently and has high testing costs, you should manage this part of the model as a component in a separate file. When components are defined in separate files, you can control and trace changes using project source control. For more information on source control, see Configuration Management.

  • Simulation speed — Using different solvers for components with different numerical properties can increase simulation speed. Similarly, grouping blocks based on their sample rate can increase simulation speed. For more information, see Solver Profiler and Improve Simulation Performance Using Performance Advisor.

Modeling requirements can influence the size of your components. For example, models with fewer than 500 blocks are easier to test than larger models. However, simulation can be faster for model hierarchies when referenced models contain more than 500 blocks.

Simulink Components

The different types of Simulink components serve a variety of modeling requirements.

Type of ComponentDefinitionSource of ContentsImplementation in ModelMore Information

A subsystem is a unique group of blocks with a dynamic interface that can inherit the properties of its inputs and outputs.

None — Contents must be manually added to each subsystem

Subsystem block

The Subsystem block icon has no badges or triangles at its corners.

Group Blocks into Subsystems
Linked subsystem

A linked subsystem is a linked instance of a Subsystem block that is stored in a library. If you disable the library link, each instance of a linked block can be unique.

Library file (.slx or .mdl) that contains the parent library block, or prototype block

Subsystem block with a library link

The Subsystem block icon has a link badge in the lower left corner.

Linked Blocks
Subsystem reference

A subsystem reference is a reference to a reusable group of blocks with a dynamic interface that can inherit the properties of its inputs and outputs.

Subsystem file (.slx or .mdl) that contains the referenced subsystem

Subsystem Reference block

The Subsystem Reference block icon has a triangle at two corners that oppose each other.

Create and Use Referenced Subsystems in Models
Model reference

A model reference is a reference to a model with a defined interface that specifies the properties of its inputs and outputs.

Model file (.slx, .mdl, or .slxp) that contains the referenced model, which may be a protected model

Model block

The Model block icon has a triangle at each corner.

Model Reference Basics

Simulink models can use any combination of these components. For example, to minimize file contention for a large model, you can convert subsystems to referenced subsystems and models, both of which are saved in separate files.

When you drag a subsystem reference or model reference from a library into a model, it directly references the subsystem file or model file that defines its contents. It has a library link only when the parent library block has a mask applied directly to it. Typically, you should use model masks, which are saved in the referenced file and do not require a library link.

High-Level Component Selection Guidelines

Each of the types of model components has an ideal use case:

  • Subsystem — Ideal for simplifying the block diagrams of other components

  • Linked subsystem — Ideal for utilities and blocksets

  • Subsystem reference — Ideal for reducing file contention and merge issues

  • Model reference — Ideal for code reuse, unit testing, parallel builds, and large components

The ideal use cases are a subset of the possible use cases for each type of component. For example, you can also reduce file contention and merge issues with a model reference, and you can also unit test a subsystem.


If you expect a subsystem to grow, make it atomic so that it functionally groups the blocks. An atomic subsystem behaves like a single block, or atomic unit, when the parent model executes. Atomic behavior is necessary for you to convert a subsystem to a model reference.

For an overview of when to use different componentization techniques, see Component-Based Modeling in Simulink (4 min, 28 sec).

This flow chart provides a starting point for choosing a component type.

The flow chart visualizes the following text.

This table provides the information from the flow chart and elaborates on how your choice of component type can improve performance for components that are reused multiple times in a hierarchy and contain many blocks.

Component UseType of Component

The component will require a defined interface or standalone behavior.

Consider a model reference.

The component will contain enough blocks and be reused enough to benefit from accelerator mode simulation of referenced models.

Whether a model hierarchy benefits from accelerator mode simulation of referenced models depends on many factors. For each referenced model that simulates in accelerator mode, Simulink must build and compile a simulation target. These targets are reused for additional instances of the referenced model, which accelerates simulation when the model hierarchy contains many instances of the referenced model. If the referenced model is unchanged, you can reuse its simulation target, which is stored in a Simulink cache file (.slxc). For more information, see Share Simulink Cache Files for Faster Simulation.

Consider a model reference.

The component will be a published utility, which rarely changes.

Consider a linked subsystem.

The component will be reused or managed in a source control system and will not require a defined interface, benefit from model reference simulation targets, or be a published utility.

Consider a subsystem reference.

The component will not be reused or managed in a source control system.

Consider a subsystem.

Modeling Requirement Considerations

Before implementing a component based on the high-level guidelines, consider additional modeling requirements. For example, if you require physical connections at the component interface, you must use a subsystem, linked subsystem, or referenced subsystem. If you require intellectual property protection, you must create a protected model, which can be referenced.

To determine whether a component meets your modeling requirements, see Compare Capabilities of Model Components.

See Also


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