The Process Control Loop
- have identified a process variable we seek to regulate (e.g., room temperature like the example mentioned by wiki), be able to measure it with a sensor, and be able to transmit that measurement as an electrical signal back to our controller, and
- have a final control element that can receive the controller output (CO) signal, react in some fashion to impact the process (e.g., a control valve moves or a relay switch turns on/off), and as a result cause the process variable to respond in a consistent and predictable fashion.
As shown below (click to animate and enlarge), the home heating control system described by wiki can be organized as a traditional control loop block diagram. Block diagrams help us visualize the components of a loop and see how the pieces are connected.
A home heating system can be a simple on/off control or a proportional control by adjusting the amount of hot fluid by throttling a control valve. Nevertheless, we introduce the idea of control loop diagrams by presenting a home heating system in the same way we would a more sophisticated commercial control application.
The measured temperature PV signal is subtracted from set point to compute controller error, e(t) = SP – PV. The action of the controller is based on this error, e(t).Starting from the far right in the diagram above, our process variable of interest is the house temperature. A temperature sensor, such as a thermistor in a modern digital thermostat, measures temperature and transmits a signal to the controller.
In this example,home heating system, the controller output feds a varying or proportional milliamp signal to a variable operating solenoid or servo valve (our Final Control Element)that controls the flow of hot water .
As the energy output of the furnace rises or falls, the temperature of our house increases or decreases and a feedback loop is complete. The important elements of a home heating control system can be organized like any commercial application:
- Control Objective: maintain room temperature at (SP) in spite of disturbances
- Process Variable: room temperature
- Measurement Sensor: temperature sensor,Thermistor
- Measured Process Variable (PV) Signal: signal transmitted from the thermistor
- Set Point (SP): desired room temperature
- Controller Output (CO): signal to the variable operating solenoid valve
- Final Control Element (FCE): variable operating solenoid valve to control hot water flow
- Manipulated Variable: hot water flow rate to chamber
- Disturbances (D): heat loss from doors, walls and windows; changing outdoor temperature; sunrise and sunset; rain…
With the loop closed as shown in the diagrams, we are said to be in automatic mode and the controller is making all adjustments to the Final Control Element. If we were to open the loop and switch to manual mode, then we would be able to issue controller output commands through buttons or a keyboard directly to the Final Control Element. Therefore:
- open loop = manual mode
- closed loop = automatic mode