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Two step control action

This can be defined as 'the action of a controller whose output changes from one state to
another due to a variation in its input' One example of this control is that of a float
operated filling v/v say for a cistern. In normal condition the output of the float is nil and
no water passes through the valve, should the water level drop the float detects this and
operates the valve to change to its second state which is open and water flows. When
the level re-establishes then the float controls the valve to return to its primary state
which is closed. In this way the float is controlling the water level by changing the valve
between two different states. A more realistic system is shown below.

The system works as follows; the level drops until the lower float is uncovered, the
controller detects this and opens the filling valve, the filling v/v remains open until the
top float is covered and then the controller shuts the valve

The distance between the floats is termed the 'Overlap' i.e. the distance between the
high and low controlling values ( on some systems this can be altered by altering the
high or low set point of the controller, in the above system this would mean altering the
position of the floats )

If there where any delays or lags in the sensing side, say the float switch was a little
sticky or the filling v/v was slow to fully open then the level would fall below rise above
the low and high set points respectively. This is termed 'Overshoot', it can be seen if the
controller 'response to change' time was speeded up so the overshoot could be reduced.

The system may be represented in block form as follows;

The measuring unit signal ( in this case an electrical on/off ) is the Measured value on
which the controller operates. The signal is being 'fed back' to the controller hence to
measured value is Feed back for the controller; i.e. the controller can see the direct
results of its action.

Feed forward signals are sometimes used on systems which have an inherently high
Process Lag; an example of this may be on a Marine Diesel engine jacket fresh water
cooling system where part of the control is that the inlet temperature to the engine is
monitored and fed forward to the controllers, should the temperature at inlet rise then
consequently the outlet temperature must also rise. As the rise has already been
detected then the controller can start increasing the sea water cooling to the jacket
water coolers even though no temperature rise on the outlet from the engine may have
been detected. This type of control, as it takes no account of what is happening to the
process ( is the engine running and hence requires the extra cooling or is it stopped ) is
not very accurate and normally ( and as in this case ) required Feedback to improve it.

The actions of controllers having variable output

Proportional control action

This where the change in output signal from a controller is proportional to the change in
input signal

The control can be summed up in the following;

Output = Constant x Deviation

Output - this is the output from the controller and goes to the control element ( say the
filling v/v on the previous example i.e. the piece of equipment that actually alters the
Constant- This is the 'Gain' of the controller, as the output varies with the deviation, the
amount it varies can be altered.

Say if the deviation changes by one unit the output changes by one unit, hence the gain
is one. If the output varied by two for the same one change in deviation then the gain
would be two. Similarly if the change in output was one half a unit for a one unit change
in input then the gain would be half. Another way used to describe Gain is 'Proportional
band', here a gain of one is described as a proportional band (Pb)of 100%. For a gain of
two the Pb is 50%, and for a gain of a half the Pb is 200%, hence it can be seen that the
magnitude of the Pb is opposite to the gain.
Deviation- This is the difference between the set point of the controller and the measured
value. If the set point was one unit and the measured value was two units the deviation
would be one unit.

Deviation = Set point - Measured value

The important think to remember is that the narrower the Proportional band the higher
the gain and hence the higher the output varies for a change in deviation, this has the
effect of making the controller control the process quicker by operating the controlling
element more for smaller variations measured value. This has the negative effect as will
be seen of making the system unstable


For a proportional controller to work there must be an deviation, if the deviation is zero
then the controller output to the controlling element is zero. For the example of the tank
and filling v/v obviously this is not possible, with the water constantly flowing out of the
manual outlet v/v then the filling valve ( or controlling element ) must always be some
degree open. If the level is at the level of the set point then the output is nil, the filling
v/v is shut and the level drops, deviation occurs and the filling v/v opens. with this it can
be seen that the system is not stable; what would happen in reality is the level would
change ( say the level was low and was now rising) until it reached a point close to the
set point where the deviation multiplied by the gain would give an output signal to the
filling v/v such that the flow of water in to the tank equalled the flow of water out of the

This deviation is called 'offset'

Therefore a proportional only controller when in equilibrium must have offset

The amount of offset will be determined by the Gain, for the tank system if the gain is
high the deviation can be small for a larger output

The offset will increase for increased loads on the system i.e. if the outlet v/v on the
example where to be opened further obviously the filling v/v would have to be opened
further, and hence the deviation ( offset ) to give the required output would have to be

For the system above all the control would be positive as the filling v/v would only be
open if the level was low and hence the offset would always be positive, when the level
rose above the set point, say caused by Lags leading to Overshoots or the filling v/v
leaking slightly the deviation would be negative and the output zero.

Proportional action and instability (Hunting)

As the gain increases so the output increases for smaller and smaller changes in
deviation, eventually the response starts to look similar to that of a two step controller
with the control valve flying from full open to full shut with the slightest deviation from
the set point. This would be o.k. if the system was devoid of all Lags, with lags however,
particularly between the controller and controlling element, there is a tendency for 'over
This can occur with reduced gain when the process lags are increased, for systems with
a very large lags even small changes in gain can seriously effect the stability of a system
and especially its ability to resist step ( or rapid ) load changes.

For smaller values of gain the system can be set up to have minimum of hunt and be self
stabilizing .

Split range control( negative and positive offset)

A system could be designed to control both the outlet valves and inlet valves (this is