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Unroll for-Loops

When the code generator unrolls a for-loop, instead of producing a for-loop in the generated code, it produces a copy of the loop body for each iteration. For small, tight loops, unrolling can improve performance. However, for large loops, unrolling can significantly increase code generation time and generate inefficient code.

Force Loop Unrolling by Using coder.unroll

The code generator uses heuristics to determine when to unroll a for-loop. To force loop unrolling, use coder.unroll. This affects only the for loop that is immediately after coder.unroll. For example:

function z = call_myloop()
%#codegen
z = myloop(5);
end

function b = myloop(n)
b = zeros(1,n);
coder.unroll();
for i = 1:n
    b(i)=i+n;
end
end

Here is the generated code for the for-loop:

  z[0] = 6.0;
  z[1] = 7.0;
  z[2] = 8.0;
  z[3] = 9.0;
  z[4] = 10.0;

To control when a for-loop is unrolled, use the coder.unroll flag argument. For example, unroll the loop only when the number of iterations is less than 10.

function z = call_myloop()
%#codegen
z = myloop(5);
end

function b = myloop(n)
unroll_flag = n < 10;
b = zeros(1,n);
coder.unroll(unroll_flag);
for i = 1:n
    b(i)=i+n;
end
end

To unroll a for-loop, the code generator must be able to determine the bounds of the for-loop. For example, code generation fails for the following code because the value of n is not known at code generation time.

function b = myloop(n)
b = zeros(1,n);
coder.unroll();
for i = 1:n
    b(i)=i+n;
end
end

Set Loop Unrolling Threshold for All for-Loops in the MATLAB Code

If a for-loop is not preceded by coder.unroll, the code generator uses a loop unrolling threshold to determine whether to automatically unroll the loop. If the number of loop iterations is less than the threshold, the code generator unrolls the loop. If the number of iterations is greater than or equal to the threshold, the code generator produces a for-loop. The default value of the threshold is 5. By modifying this threshold, you can fine-tune loop unrolling. To modify the threshold:

  • In a configuration object for standalone code generation (coder.CodeConfig or coder.EmbeddedCodeConfig), set the LoopUnrollThreshold property.

  • In the MATLAB® Coder™ app, on the Speed tab, set Loop unrolling threshold.

Unlike the coder.unroll directive, the threshold applies to all for-loops in your MATLAB code. The threshold can also apply to some for-loops produced during code generation.

For an individual loop, a coder.unroll directive takes precedence over the loop unrolling optimization.

Unroll Simple for-Loops

Consider this function:

function [x,y] = call_myloops()
%#codegen
x = myloop1(5);
y = myloop2(5);
end

function b = myloop1(n)
b = zeros(1,n);
for i = 1:n
    b(i)=i+n;
end
end

function b = myloop2(n)
b = zeros(1,n);
for i = 1:n
    b(i)=i*n;
end
end

To set the value of the loop unrolling threshold to 6, and then generate a static library, run:

cfg = coder.CodeConfig;
cfg.LoopUnrollThreshold = 6;
codegen call_myloops -config cfg

This is the generated code for the for-loops. The code generator unrolled both for-loops.

  x[0] = 6.0;
  y[0] = 5.0;
  x[1] = 7.0;
  y[1] = 10.0;
  x[2] = 8.0;
  y[2] = 15.0;
  x[3] = 9.0;
  y[3] = 20.0;
  x[4] = 10.0;
  y[4] = 25.0;

Unroll Nested for-Loops

Suppose that your MATLAB code has two nested for-loops.

  • If the number of iterations of the inner loop is less than the threshold, the code generator first unrolls the inner loop. Subsequently, if the product of the number of iterations of the two loops is also less than the threshold, the code generator unrolls the outer loop. Otherwise the code generator produces the outer for-loop.

  • If the number of iterations of the inner loop is equal to or greater than the threshold, the code generator produces both for-loops.

This behavior is generalized to multiple nested for-loops.

Consider the function nestedloops_1 with two nested for-loops:

function y = nestedloops_1
%#codegen
y = zeros(2,2);
for i = 1:2
    for j = 1:2
        y(i,j) = i+j;
    end
end
end

Generate code for nestedloops_1 with the loop unrolling threshold set to the default value of 5. Here is the generated code for the for-loops. The code generator unrolled both for-loops because the product of the number of iterations of the two loops is 4, which is less than the threshold.

  y[0] = 2.0;
  y[2] = 3.0;
  y[1] = 3.0;
  y[3] = 4.0;

Now, generate code for the function nestedloops_2 with the loop unrolling threshold set to the default value of 5.

function y = nestedloops_2
%#codegen
y = zeros(3,2);
for i = 1:3
    for j = 1:2
        y(i,j) = i+j;
    end
end
end

The number of iterations of the inner loop is less than the threshold. The code generator unrolls the inner loop. But the product of the number of iterations of the two loops is 6, which is greater than the threshold. Therefore, the code generator produces code for the outer for-loop. Here is the generated code for the for-loops.

  for (i = 0; i < 3; i++) {
    y[i] = (double)i + 2.0;
    y[i + 3] = ((double)i + 1.0) + 2.0;
  }

See Also

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