E-News April 2009 Edition

Control to the Rescue by Professor Mike Grimble

The world economy is having difficulties but control engineering offers solutions. There is a well accepted maxim that to improve a product or to reduce a manufacturing cost the investment needed for changes in electrical, chemical or mechanical systems is more than 10 times that needed to achieve similar benefits through improving control systems. In these hard times companies will have to change products and practices and the cheapest way is often to invest in control systems. A difficult trading period provides the opportunity to provide training to engineers and technicians to give them new skills to exploit the recovery. If companies are to emerge from the recession healthier and stronger they will need to take advantage of the next 12 months or more to advance their expertise and bring in new ideas.

The ACTC provides many of the components needed to help companies whether it be through the training programs it provides or through its links with the University of Strathclyde for future products or techniques. The ACTC is managed by Industrial Systems and Control Ltd (ISC and this company is also able to provide tailored training courses to satisfy individual company requirements. Obviously such tailored courses often require expertise from out with the ACTC, however members can trade their entitlements to reduce bespoke course costs. Recent courses for Boeing in Seattle have been tailored to suit their special requirements. The first course was a fundamental control theory course for software engineers, newcomers or those that required a refresher course. The second course was aimed at the experts who wanted to extend their knowledge in the design of robust and reliable complex nonlinear systems.

We do of course have regular courses that held in Glasgow that varies from basic Engineering Maths to Advanced Nonlinear Predictive control. Forthcoming training courses include Robust, Reliable and Multivariable Control (12th to 14th May 2009). Further information is available on the ACTC website. The ACTC members do of course receive two free places for such events.

Members will recall the very successful nonlinear industrial control applications workshops sponsored by the ACTC and held in Glasgow annually for the last few years. The next is called an International Workshop on Hybrid and Predictive Control For Nonlinear Industrial Applications and is sponsored by the EPSRC and many professional bodies. The next workshop takes place between 28th to 30th April 2009 and ACTC members receive two free places. The workshop is carefully structured to be of interest to engineers in industry and to students and academics. The first day of the 3-day event workshop will be concerned with an overview of new technology with contributions from National Instruments. The second day is aimed at participants from industry to introduce the subjects of nonlinear control predictive control and hybrid systems and to also describe applications with possible advantages and problems. The final day is to look to future developments in both theory and applications.

The Process Control Academy, in cooperation with Emerson Process Control in Stockport, is scheduled for 16th - 18th June 2009 and will be held in Leeds University Business School, UK . This event provides basic tutorial lectures on topics common to all areas of control engineering. Members may inspect the agendas and course contents for the meetings to see if they are relevant on our website.

Mike Grimble


New Advanced and Introductory Control Courses

A strategy of the ACTC is to develop very flexible course material so that more personalised courses may be provided and so that further standard training courses may be offered. It is also important to cover the full range from very basic technician training material up to advanced control for design engineers.

An introduction to PID control is one of the topics that is most popular at introductory level. A longer course on this topic is now available with a new part dealing with design issues, tuning and implementation. In fact, some companies require the ideas of control systems to be introduced to technicians or engineers working in other scientific disciplines. This often arises in the aerospace and the automotive industries where it is important that those concerned with writing software have some understanding of control engineering. It also seems to be a trend in the process industries where process operators, instrument mechanics and the like need to be able to work more effectively with control engineers. Stories abound of advanced control systems that are commissioned with a great fanfare of approval from the suppliers being switched off when the shift changes. The aim of our motivational courses for process operators is to ensure they understand the benefits of feedback control, to encourage them to work with suppliers and plant engineers more effectively to overcome teething problems and ensure proper use.

Amongst the more advanced courses being developed is one that focuses on nonlinearities in systems. This is suitable for those in the aerospace and defence industries working on high accuracy servo systems dealing with problems caused by friction effects. Engineers working on aero engine or automobile engine controls also realise the difficulties introduced by nonlinearities and constraints, resulting in models that involve look up tables and severe nonlinearities. This also applies to the process industries where valves play an important role and wear and tear can result in changes in the valve characteristics. The new course provides a greater depth of knowledge on the difficulties and solutions such problems pose. The material ranges from basic modelling and simulation up to compensation and tuning methods. It also provides numerous application examples. The previous course on nonlinear systems focused less on design problems. The new course is built around a nonlinear control systems design toolbox developed by Pawel Majecki that is provided as part of the course. The toolbox is available for use with MatLAB but some of its features are already available in Labview for those who are using the new National Instruments design and simulation tools.

For further details of this course please contact Dr Meghan McGookin or Prof Mike Grimble.


Process Control Academy 2009

The 2009 Process Control Academy training and awareness event follows on from previous years events by including new topics and hands-on exercises and will be held on 16th - 18th June 2009 in Leeds University Business School, UK. The main theme of the event will be the control of processes with deadtime, model predictive control, productivity tools for control engineers and wireless technology. The focus will be on techniques that provide a competitive advantage through improved performance, better understanding and more efficient processes and working.

Target Audience
Process control engineers wishing to refresh their knowledge and understanding of the latest techniques
Managers requiring an up-to-date overview of quality improving technology
Operation and production staff looking for ways to get more from their plant

3-day industry-focussed programme
Invited experts delivering valuable end-user case studies
Basic and advanced process control with proven application Overview of new technologies and tools

Day 1 consists of a morning session providing a suitable introduction for those new to process control or a refresher for experienced engineers. The afternoon is devoted to the control of process with significant deadtime, and will look at de-tuning PI control, control of disturbances, Smith Predictors tuning and sensitivity to plant-model mismatch.

Day 2 will see the introduction of model predictive control and its key features that make it the most widely applied advanced control technique. The extraction of models from plant data for use in MPC will also be presented. Plenty of industrial examples and real-life end-user case studies will be discussed.

The final day will provide a review of new tools to aid process control specialists - whether for system identification, data analysis, root cause analysis or loop tuning. Wireless technologies will also be covered, in terms of capabilities, new functionality offered and available devices.

The programme and online registration can be found on http://www.isc-ltd.com/training/processacademy/


Forthcoming Robust and Reliable Control Systems Design Course

This three-day course introduces the basic concepts of robust and reliable control system and problems associated with multivariable systems.

Advanced Control technique such as Linear-Quadratic Optimal Control, H-infinity and Predictive Control are illustrated in the lectures. In addition, state estimation using Kalman filter and Fault detection, tolerant and reconfiguration are also included in this course. Available computer design packages are discussed and examples during hands-on sessions are used to reinforce the understanding of the course.

For further details or register online please visit our website


New ACTC Member - Fieldbus Foundation

The Fieldbus Foundation, through its EMEA Operations, has joined the ACTC. Through this membership, the ACTC will undertake a formal, quantitative evaluation of the performance, reliability and maintainability benefits associated with Control in the Field (CIF) in different industrial application scenarios. CIF is a key function offered by FOUNDATION fieldbus technology to end users in process control applications whereby the control function may be performed locally at a sensor/actuator without requiring the data to be transmitted back to a central distributed control system (DCS) or programmable logic controller (PLC).

The project will use theoretical and simulation-based analysis to assess the improved control performance of a FOUNDATION fieldbus system due to the elimination of local control-related data transmissions to the central control system, reduction in time delays and improved determinism, compared to a traditional SCADA/DCS solution.

Recognising the mutual value of a technical study into CIF, the CIF project will be a collaborative project between the Fieldbus Foundation and ACTC. On completion, the project findings will be disseminated to all ACTC member companies, many of which are large end users of control technologies that may become involved with further field trials.

Travis Hesketh, Vice-Chairman, Fieldbus Foundation EMEA Operations, commented, “The Fieldbus Foundation is committed to the on-going education of end users and potential end users of the benefits that FOUNDATION technology brings to fieldbus applications. It is clearly understood that CIF is a key function of FOUNDATION technology but to have a formal, third party evaluation of the deliverable benefits is very exciting.” He continued, “we are looking forward to an on-going working relationship with ACTC and envisage further collaborative projects in the future.”


Process Engineering Live, Manchester

Andy Clegg gave a talk at the Process Engineering Live (10-11 March 2009, Manchester, (http://www.processengineeringlive.co.uk) entitled "Making Effective Decisions about Energy Efficiency Improvement" which summarises various energy saving studies in the water, power and process industries that have been undertaken by ISC Ltd.. Please contact us if you would like to know more about these studies.

Visitors to the Process Engineering Live event had the chance to participate in a highly focused conference programme. The event featured free-to-attend, half-day sessions on four critical topics - Energy & Environment, People & Skills; Asset Management and Maintenance; Process Improvement Techniques.

A copy of Andys presentation can be downloaded here


Scheduled Training: Control Fundamentals Course in Glasgow

In March 2009, Dr Andy Clegg and Dr Meghan McGookin presented a three days training course in "Control Fundamentals - Theory and Practice" at Glasgow. The course was well attended and well received by major companies such as Raytheon, RWE NPower, Scottish and Southern Energy, E.ON UK and Toyo Aluminium, Japan. This course provides a basic understanding to control engineering and the delegates found the hands-on / tutorial sessions were particularly useful as it further reinforce better understanding and the application of control engineering.


Training Course for Boeing in Seattle, USA

In December 2008, Professor Mike Grimble and Dr Pawel Majecki have successfully delivered two training course for Boeing Commercial Airplane Group (BCAG), Seattle, USA, despite the poor weather conditions. The first course, “Linear Dynamic Modelling and Classical Control Theory” was targeted for delegates who require a refresher in control theory and/or newcomers who have minimal knowledge about control systems. This course also provided a basic understanding of using Matlab and/or Simulink for control system design.

A new advanced control course, namely “Robust and Reliable Control Systems Design”, has been put together and delivered to Boeing as well. This course is targeted for delegates who have good background knowledge about control theory and would like to study and design advanced control system for more complex nonlinear systems. This course was attended by experienced aerospace design engineers. However, due to the poor weather condition, the tutorial session was not completed. Consequently, both presenters are arranging webinar to demonstrate the tutorial sessions.


Win a new Textbook on Industrial Control

A copy of the latest book on industrial control engineering by Prof Mike Grimble is the prize of the month. The copy of Robust Industrial Control Systems is still in its cellophane cover and is just waiting for a good home. All that is needed is the name and contact details of any perspective ACTC members to be forwarded to Dr Meghan McGookin . There will be a prize draw and Meghan will dispatch a new copy of this seminal text to the lucky winner.