Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Process Tuning

sliding gate industrial process control valve
This sliding gate industrial control valve could operate
under the command of a tuned process control loop.
Image courtesy Schubert & Salzer
Controller tuning is a process whereby a controlling device in a process has a response characterized to the needs of maintaining a process condition within certain limits under a range of varying disturbances to the process. Established guidelines for automation standards exist so that every process control operator can experience the same standard of safety and maintenance in a way universally understandable. The International Society of Automation (ISA) promotes different tuning standards based on the particulars of the control process, such as temperature or liquid level control.

Liquid-level control loops are usually considered non-self-regulating processes. They require external moderation to remain uniform and for errors to either be mitigated or corrected. General rules which exist for adjusting and tuning loops for self-regulating process, such as temperature control, are often inapplicable to liquid level loops, making liquid level control loops somewhat unique in their tuning.

In order to address the counter intuitive nature of these process loops, start with a model of the loop’s ideal functionality. This can serve as a reference. After doing so, incorporate potential variables into the ideal loop and evaluate their impact on the model process. Checking equipment, then modeling the process dynamics, allows engineers to observe the manner in which the process reacts in relation to the target or goal performance.

Whereas other loops can be tuned via trial and error, liquid-level control loops should not be due to the nature of their reactions to controller input being different than that of other processes. Instead, the parameters for the control loop need to be carefully engineered, rather than specifically tuned. Liquid level loops are integrating processes, rather than self-regulating. A self-regulating process will, with no disturbances to the variables, reach an equilibrium at which the process value remains constant. Consider a non-self-regulating liquid level control loop where the fill valve is open. No equilibrium point will be achieved, just overflow. The distinction between the two types is key to understanding why tuning liquid level loops is a different process than self-regulating control loops.

Temperature and thermal loops, depending upon the process dynamics, present varying degrees of tuning challenge. PID temperature controllers are employed to adjust the heat input to a process to affect a change in, or maintenance of, a process temperature setpoint. Without proper tuning, the controller output and the resulting process performance can oscillate or be slow to respond, with a negative impact on process performance or yield. Many PID controllers have an auto-tune feature, some of which are more effective than others. The best results achievable by PID controller tuning are accomplished by defining a setpoint prior to the auto-tune process and starting the tuning procedure from a stable process condition. Tuning the controller in the same process environment in which it will operate can also be very helpful.

Share your process measurement and control challenges with experienced application specialists, combining your own knowledge and experience with their product application expertise to develop effective solutions.