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Control Systems Design with Protuner Practical PID Loop Tuning Tools

By Vance Van Doren, Consulting Editor, Control Engineering Reprinted from Control Engineering July, 1994

PID controllers account for as much as 95% of the industrial control market and
at least 30% of the loops installed to date have been running in manual mode for lack of proper tuning, or so they say at Techmation (Scottsdale, Ariz.). Accordingly, Techmation has developed the Protuner Systems Analyzer to help the nontechnical user with a minimum of theoretical background improve the performance of process loops. Protuner interfaces to an existing PID loop and collects input/output data from the process for analysis of the loop's dynamic behavior. It walks the user through a prescribed series of open-loop step tests to generate a process model and appropriate tuning parameters. The data can also be analyzed for secondary process characteristics such as signal-to-noise ratio, actuator hysteresis deadband, and stiction. All of the analysis is performed in the frequency domain. Protuner first generates an empirical Bode plot for the process from the collected data. It then tunes the loop so as to reshape the forward loop Bode plot for improved performance. The loop's integral and derivative time constants are chosen to more-or-less cancel the process dynamics. The proportional gain is then chosen to establish the gain margin, phase margin, and/or damping ratio required to satisfy the user's preference for a fast, medium, or slow acting loop. Separate tuning rules are applied to achieve optimal disturbance rejection vs. setpoint tracking and to accommodate integrating vs. nonintegrating processes. The user's role is to specify a window of historical data that accurately reflects the dynamic behavior of the process. He can also help refine the frequency domain analysis by deleting measurement noise from the process data. He can design a first order filter to smooth the data as they are collected, or he can superimpose his own hand drawn trend chart on the measurement display. The manual method is particularly useful in the presence of severe or non-random noise that is often easier to identify visually than mathematically. Protuner can also help tune multi-input, multi-output PID control systems. Relative gain arrays can be designed to decouple the steady state effects of interacting loops. Dynamic decoupling of 2x2, 3x3, and 4x4 interactive processes can also be accomplished by repeated application of the single-input, singleoutput tuning procedure. The decoupling design procedure helps the user design a feedforward control element for each loop that negates the interactions from other loops.

In addition to loop tuning. Protuner offers spectral analysis tools including power spectra and auto/cross correlation's. A power spectrum of the process output is useful for identifying cyclic variations in the load that may necessitate a less aggressive control objective. A cross correlation between the input and the output is useful for manually determining the process deadtime. Techmation offers training courses in the fundamentals of process control and advanced control loop analysis using the Protuner system. The courses include methods for identifying and fixing equipment problems for various applications. Although I have not taken either of these course, I would strongly advise users to do so precisely because the system is designed to be so simple. That is, Protuner is designed to performs its analysis functions with as little user assistance as possible. Thus, the user who does not understand at least the basic concepts behind Protuner's operation may be able to generate results, but will not know how to use them. For example, when the measurement data are smoothed by a user defined filter, the tuning algorithm implicitly assumes that the controller will be equipped with an identical input filter. Since a filter tends to dampen a controller's actions, Protuner will automatically adjust the tuning parameters accordingly. If the user does not then add that filter to his controller, the subsequent loop performance may become overly aggressive or even unstable. Caveat emptor! Protuner requires an IBM or compatible, PC (AT, 386, or 486), DOS 3.3 or better, 640K of RAM, floppy drive, hard drive, parallel printer port, math coprocessor, an EGA or better graphics display, mouse and graphics printer. The Protuner 1200PC model comes with its own two channel interface cards and cables for patching into the control system's analog I/O. The Protuner 1600PC model comes with a stand-alone data acquisition unit that interfaces to the PC via an RS232C port. It can be patched into four or eight of the control system's I/O points for multi-variable analysis. CAHNERS Publishing Company