E-News May 2008 Edition

Expansion in Training Initiatives by Professor Mike Grimble

When the ACTC began the most important activity was technology transfer and training was only a small part of the portfolio of services. The changes in industry have been reflected in the changes within the ACTC and training is now at the forefront of all of the services provided. In fact, the training services which are considered most beneficial by companies did not exist in the beginning. For example, the three or four day training courses taken to company premises or the three to five day academies for the steel or process industries, and finally the regular courses held in Glasgow are all relatively recent innovations.

We hope that we are also innovative in the way such courses are prepared and presented. For example, it is reported elsewhere that working with Diana Yanakiev at Ford we have tried a new pattern of three day training where different groups of people attend different courses in the mornings and in the afternoons of a three day event. This reduces the demands on the time of important personnel and can also enable the attendees to recover after quite hard training sessions.

The most recent courses of the ACTC on subjects like optimization and system identification have been very well received. We have also started to undertake some joint training events with for example National Instruments and also Freescale Semiconductors. The combined strength of the ACTC and these companies has resulted in very lively and innovative meetings. The ACTC tries to be responsive to member needs and we have also canvassed opinion on a new Industrial Control Course that would be presented in many 2 day parts at different venues and will be very focused on application issues. This will be put to the next steering committee meeting.

The cooperation with the Industrial Control Centre at the University of Strathclyde has remained strong over the years and the most recent evidence is a new EPSRC project working with Dr. David Anderson of the University of Glasgow (an ex ACTC engineer) and involving companies like SELEX of Edinburgh to assess the new nonlinear techniques. The value of the project is £380,000.00. One of the major aims of the project is to develop new nonlinear predictive controllers which are much easier to implement and design. Moreover, most nonlinear predictive algorithms are aimed at the process industries where the time scales are long and the computational power is great. The new algorithms should also be suitable for the fast processing required in high speed machinery control or servo systems.

The parent company which manages the ACTC is of course Industrial Systems and Control Ltd. ISC has recently been awarded a new European Union project on offshore wind farms. One of the responsibilities that ISC has is to help disseminate results from this project which should be of interest to the power companies associated with the ACTC.

ACTC members may not realise but over the years the training capabilities have increased substantially since the number of training courses available and the hands-on material produced can be tailored to many different company needs. If your company has a need for training you should therefore contact Mike Grimble to find what is available that may not be listed on the website but can be provided.

Mike Grimble


Newly Improved ISC Website

ISC's website www.isc-ltd.com. has just been redesigned and gone live.

The new site reflects the recent changes to the company brand, and is also intended to improve our visitors' experience of the site, in particular, to be able to:

  • Find out what we do and have to offer.
  • Get in touch with our engineers easily.

Using the new site, you can now:

  • Browse for industry-specific contents
  • Ask us a control question quickly
  • Contact us on your company-specific training needs quickly
  • Register your participation for a scheduled course
  • Register your interest in any of our forthcoming training courses
  • Subscribe to our mailing list and ACTC e-news

The ACTC website actc-control.com is also being updated ... you'll be the first to know when it's done.


Completion of a Predictive Control and Inverse Simulation Project with the University of Glasgow

Prof. Mike Grimble, Dr. Andrzej Ordys (now Professor Ordys) , Dr. Leonardo Giovanni and Mr Piotr Czechowski have recently completed an EPSRC funded project on the development of new predictive control laws for applications ranging from helicopters to marine systems. The team at the University of Glasgow involved Dr. Douglas Thomson, Prof. David Murray Smith, Dr David Anderson and Mr Marat Bagiev. The team at Glasgow are internationally respected for their work on inverse simulation methods. This original technique proposed for use with helicopter control involved specifying the flight trajectory which may involve near ground operation and then going back through the inverse of the model to compute the control law. The slight difficulty with the approach is that it is essentially open loop and does not allow constraints to be handled rigorously.

Predictive control does of course involve feedback action and it enables predictions of stability to be made. Moreover, it provides a nice framework to deal with disturbances and to allow for multivariable interactions. The idea was therefore to integrate the two approaches to obtain the benefits of both. For example, most nonlinear predictive control methods involve linearisation around a trajectory or a similar process. The inverse simulation method provides the desired output and control trajectory which can be used as a starting point.

Very new developments included new multiple model adaptive controls, new helicopter simulation tools, new NGMV Predictive algorithms (working with Dr Pawel Majecki currently of ISC Ltd) and these have been presented at many company premises to disseminate the results in Industry.

During the project many different application areas were considered including reheat furnaces, automotive powertrains and ship steering and stabilisation systems. The advances made are summarised in a range of papers which are available from Prof. Mike Grimble. The results of the EPSRC projects involving software tools, models and design algorithms have been collected together on a CD and can also be requested from Prof Mike Grimble (mgrimble@eee.strath.ac.uk) or from Dr. David Anderson at the University of Glasgow (d.anderson@aero.gla.ac.uk).


Nonlinear High Performance Real Time Control

A new EPSRC grant has been awarded to Professor Mike J Grimble and Dr M Reza Katebi to work on advanced nonlinear control design methods for real-time applications. The project is in co-operation with Dr David Anderson of the University of Glasgow and the funding includes £284,760.65 (EP/F026781/1: Strathclyde) and £108,399 (EP/F031734/1: David Anderson, University of Glasgow).

The main industrial partner on the project is SELEX at Edinburgh (formerly BAE Systems, Edinburgh). The work with SELEX involves real-time application of the advanced controls to servo systems. There is strong co-operation with National Instruments both in Austin, Texas and Newbury, UK, that are specialists in the provision of both software and hardware tools for the implementation of computationally intensive algorithms. The dissemination of the research results is in co-operation with the Applied Control Technology Consortium (ACTC) that is a training and technology transfer organisation which is a spin off of the Strathclyde Centre’s activities. The project will also entail an investigation of the potential of the new techniques for use in paper drive systems with Iggesund Paperboard Ltd at Workington, Cumbria.

The project has been developed from research results established on the Centre’s EPSRC Platform Grant and the main aim is to provide practical algorithms for real-time control but those which have a sound scientific basis. The project has the potential to provide one of the first predictive controllers for nonlinear systems which can be used on devices of very limited computational power, such as, embedded systems. The project has a two year’s duration and involves two research engineers. Any one who wishes to be kept informed of the results of the project may contact Professor Mike Grimble on m.grimble@eee.strath.ac.uk.


Process Control Academy 2008 - Leeds University

The Applied Technology Control Consortium (ACTC) held its third Process Control Academy in the prestigious Parkinson Building of Leeds University in March 2008. Held over three days, the Academy has a unique blend of proven industrial training with computer-based exercises and invited expert speakers to showcase the latest techniques and end-user application stories.

The event opened with the usual half-day refresher on basic process control. The main topics this year were modelling for process control, system identification, adaptive control and optimisation, and safety instrumented systems. Phil Masding from Ineos Chlor was one of the invited speakers. He spoke about their experiences of developing math models of a new process plant which were used to mitigate plant commissioning and for a cost-effective operator training simulator. Emerson Process Management, the main sponsor of the Academy, provided two speakers. Glyn Westlake gave a stimulating presentation about the optimisation of subsea wells and Andy Crosland completed the event with a wide-ranging overview of process safety systems.

It was not all work as the delegates were treated to a Process Academy dinner: a relaxing, informal affair, providing an opportunity to network with other attendees and lecturers.

With 25 delegates, a wide range of industries were represented. Attendees came from BP, Shell, Corus, British Energy, BAE Systems (Barrow), Scottish Power, Scottish and Southern Energy, AkerKvaerner, UPM Shotton, Procter & Gamble and Croda Chemicals.

With delegate feedback being extremely positive, we will be holding another Process Control Academy, probably early 2009, please see www.isc-ltd.com/processacademy for details. If you are interested in attending the next one, please contact us to ensure you receive details as they become available.


10th International Rolling Mill Academy

ISC and the ACTC are pleased to announce the 10th International Rolling Mill Academy. The focus of the Academy is on hot and cold rolling mill technology, and how improved control provides a competitive advantage through greater reliability, robustness and performance. This makes the event of interest to control engineers, plant managers and operation/production staff.

The Academy will be held in February/March 2009; please visit our web site on www.rollingmillacademy.com for the latest details regarding dates and contents of the course.


ACTC/National Instruments Workshop, Detroit

A joint workshop was held in Detroit during March entitled "Control Fundamentals and Latest Developments in Automotive Control". The workshop followed a new formula. The first day of the workshop was a traditional training day covering the subjects of system identification and predictive control. The second day considered the latest developments in automotive systems, mainly focusing on HCCI engines and on hybrid vehicles. The first day mostly involved ACTC tutorial lecturers but the second day had very distinguished contributors including Professors Huei Peng and Zoran Filipi of the University of Michigan. Paul Goosens of Maplesoft also described software for new methods of physical system modelling and Denise McKay of the University of Michigan described an advanced control application to gas humidifiers for fuel cells.

John Cotner of Freescale Semiconductors presented a talk on the hardware architecture issues involved with silicone implementation of vehicle control systems. Ming Kuang of Ford Motor Company covered hybrid powertrain system operation. There was a different mix of attendees for the two days and enthusiastic questioning of the speakers. Prof Jeff Cook of the University of Michigan who has had a very distinguished career for Ford chaired the afternoon sessions. The local arrangements were made by John Wilson of National Instruments and these went splendidly.

There are always lessons to learn when we mount such workshops and on this occasion we found that the research topics were so close to be state of the art that is made it difficult for the companies to contribute meaningfully. We will bear this in mind when organising next years workshop which will also be held in Detroit early next spring.


Successful New Training Formula for the Ford Motor Company Held in Fairlane Training Centre, Dearborn

The ACTC has had a long association with the Ford Motor Company in Detroit and this years two training courses involved a novel component that might provide lessons for other companies. We traditionally provide three days training in Detroit on a specific topic like an introduction to control. However, it is very difficult for engineers to free themselves for three days in succession and the courses are also quite intense. On this occasion we therefore held two separate courses during the three days with the mornings involving an introduction to control for automotive applications and the afternoons covering an introduction to Kalman filtering.

This approach of splitting 3 day courses into two halves has the advantage of not being so intrusive on time and it is also not so exhausting for engineers. There is always the possibility that some of the same people could attend both courses but the topics chosen working with Diana Yanakiev of Ford were such that this would be unlikely. The formula worked very well indeed and is certainly something we will repeat. The topics covered in the introduction to control included feedback and feedforward control systems, linear system models and stability analysis, root locus and lead lag design of systems, PID control design and PID implementation issues and finally discrete time control systems design. As with all the courses there were hands-on session following most of the lectures.

The introduction to Kalman filtering lectures covered state space system modelling, underlying probability and stochastic systems ideas, modelling of noise and disturbances, an intuitive introduction to Kalman filtering, a derivation of the Kalman filter from first principles, an extension of Kalman filtering to nonlinear systems via the extended Kalman filter and finally parameter estimation using the extended Kalman filter. The Kalman filter and its variants is of course one of the most valuable tools available for both control and signal processing applications. It has an application in topics ranging from friction estimation to fault monitoring and detection systems.

Both of the courses received an enthusiastic reception and there were many questions following on long after the official end time of the course. The local arrangements were again excellent and the facilities provided at the University of Michigan Ford training facility, was very suitable.


Training Course at Freescale Semiconductor, Detroit, USA

A two day training event was offered by Freescale Semiconductor to many of their customers in the Detroit area in cooperation with the ACTC. The training was provided at a basic introductory level and the course was very well attended with 50 delegates and apparently a waiting list.

The Course was entitled "The Need for Control" and covered:

  • Linear Systems, Transfer Functions and Frequency responses
  • Linear and Nonlinear Modelling and Simulation
  • Fundamentals of Control Design
  • PID Controller and Tuning Methods
  • Implementation Issues and Time Delay Compensation
  • Discrete-Time Systems Modelling and Control
  • State-Space system model representation
  • State Estimation (Observers and Kalman Filters)
  • State-Feedback and Optimal Control Design

There are two ways to judge the success of training courses and one concerns the number of questions raised and the other just how many attendees actually stay until the end. Based on this measure the Freescale training was very successful since there were lively debates and most of the 50 delegates were there at the end of the course. The local arrangements were made by John Cotner of Freescale with very appropriate refreshments (pizza in every possible variety) and very nice lecture room facilities.


Automotive Control SIG Meeting, 23rd April 2008, MIRA Ltd, Nuneaton, Warwickshire.

This successful event was organised at MIRA facilities. It attracted 22 delegates. The event was built around extremely important topic of Hardware-in-the-Loop simulation. Dr Ben Black of National Instruments opened the day with a keynote presentation on Technology and Trends in RCP/HIL applications. This was followed by Mr Orazio Ragonesi of Micronova presenting case studies involving HIL. The next presentation, by Dipl. -Ing. Peter Kock from MAN Nutzfahrzeuge AG featured how HIL simulations are utilized by major truck manufacturer. The last presentation before the lunch was given by Mr Robert Morton of National Instruments ("Using COTS based approach for RCP/HIL applications").

The afternoon session started with a presentation by Dr Alexandros Mouzakitis of Jaguar/Land Rover. He presented luxury car manufacturer’s perspective on development and testing of complex automotive control systems using hardware-in-the-loop platform. The next presentation by Mr Charles Glide of IPG Automotive GmbH introduced modern HIL Simulation Methods for Vehicle Dynamic Control via virtual vehicle design. This was followed by Dr Arek Dutka representing ACTC with a presentation on Hardware in the loop for Electronic Throttle System Identification. Finally, Dr Suguna Thanagasundram from University of Warwick gave a presentation on Reconfigurable Hardware-in-the-Loop Platforms for Validation of Automotive Electronic systems that concluded the event. With a good mix of speakers the meeting was well attended with presentations leading to some good questions from a lively audience. The cooperation with National Instruments in hosting the meeting is also greatly appreciated.


Scheduled Training, Glasgow - Control Fundamentals 1 : Theory

This popular scheduled training course attracted 10 delegates from a variety of companies, looking to improve their understanding of basic concepts of control theory. The course was held in the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, on 30th April and 1st of May.


ISC training course: Optimisation and System Identification

This three day training course introduced two very important topics of Optimisation and System Identification. The Optimisation is used across all the Engineering fields and the system identification is probably the most important and difficult step required for a successful modern control design. The course was held in the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, on 7-9th of May 2008 and was attended by 5 delegates.


Opening for Technical Consultant

Industrial Systems and Control Ltd. (www.isc-ltd.com), which runs the ACTC, has an opening for a Technical Consultant to work on control engineering consultancy projects, delivery of training and within the ACTC itself. This stimulating and wide-ranging role requires a blend of theoretical understanding of control, appreciation of application issues and a customer facing approach. Excellent communication skills are imperative.

Full job description can be found here.

If you would like to submit your CV for consideration then please send a covering letter and CV to Andy Buchanan, Managing Director, Industrial Systems & Control Ltd., 50 George Street, Glasgow, G1 1QE, or email to iscmail@isc-ltd.com.