Saturday, August 23, 2014

Introduction to Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC)

Typical Modular PLC
Programmable logic controls, or PLC's, are used for plant automation and control. The PLC is a specialized, industrial computer which includes onboard random access memory (RAM) and read only memory (ROM). As with any other computer, the PLC has a central processor unit (CPU) for data processing. A single PLC has the switching and logic capability to replace thousands of control relays. PLC's are ubiquitous and are used in many different applications in all industries including semiconductor manufacturing, pharmaceutical production, chemical processing, food production, primary metals, and HVAC. Because of their wide industry use, they are manufactured in many shapes and sizes.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Basic Concepts of PID Control

pid control
PID control loop diagram
(courtesy of Wikipedia)
PID is short for "proportional plus integral and derivative control", the three actions used in managing a control loop. Process loop controllers use one, two or all three of these to optimally control the process system. PID control is used in a wide variety of applications in industrial control and process system management.

Many types of PID controllers exist on the market and are used for controlling temperature, pressure, flow, and just about every other process variable. Here is a brief explanation of the three actions that make up PID.

Proportional Control Action (P):  The controller output responds in proportion to error signal. The characteristic equation for this action is:
  • Where, Kp is called proportional gain, e is the error magnitude and B is the output from controller when there is no error. It is also called bias. 
  • In a proportional controller, the value of gain is set as required by the process and can be varied from 0 to ∞. 
Integral Control Action (I): The control system will respond if the error is present over a period of time. This type of control action is called Integral Control Action. The integral action is defined mathematically as:
  • Where, e= error, Ti= Time interval of integral action.
  • Purpose of integral action is to provide adequate control action on varying demands of process. In this type of action, output varies as per the time integral of error. This action does not exist independently and always associated with proportional control. 
Derivative Control Action (D): To achieve a stable process, wide proportional band and low integral action are set. Due to these settings, the control system can be too slow. If large system disturbances occur over a wide interval, PI controllers are inadequate. These large system disturbances can be managed if the controller output responds not only to the magnitude of deviation, but also to the rate of change of deviation. Derivative control action is that control action. 

Today's loop controllers are much easier to set the PID, thanks to auto-tuning algorithms. What used to be a very time consuming and tedious job can now be done with the push of a button and allowing the controller to "learn" the process dynamics. PID controllers minimize error and optimize the accuracy of any process.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Bi-Metal Thermostats

bi-metallic thermostat
Bi-metallic Thermostats
Bi-metallic (bi-met) temperature controls (thermostats) have been around for a very long time, but their simplicity, dependability, size and cost still make them a good choice for certain applications.

Also known as "thermoswitches", bi-metal thermostats come in  two primary styles - a "disk" type, which looks more like a button, and a "cartridge" style. Both operate on the same basic principle of differential expansion. Disk type devices are used in many household appliances, such as clothes dryers or coffee pots, as temperature control or as hi-limits. Cartridge style thermostats are used in more industrial applications and OEM equipment.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Thermocouples, RTD's and Thermistors

This post explains the basic operation of the three most common temperature sensing elements - thermocouples, RTD's and thermistors.

A thermocouple is a temperature sensor that produces a micro-voltage from a phenomena called the Seebeck Effect. In simple terms, when the junction of two different (dissimilar) metals varies in temperature from a second junction (called the reference junction), a voltage is produced. When the reference junction temperature is known and maintained, the voltage produced by the sensing junction can be measured and directly applied to the change in the sensing junctions' temperature.