Closed Loop Control System and Runaway Process

A Closed Loop Control System is the most important aspect of Maintenance, Regulation and Stability in any Live Process. Nature itself is self regulated in an intricate fashion, a keen observer can notice the subtle controls. In Human Created Industrial systems we have Process control as a complex science. We can start by understanding a Simple One.

When you fill a Bucket with water, You keep an eye on the Level of water, as you open the Analog Tap, which is an equivalent of a Motor operated Valve. Your Eye is an advanced Optical Sensor, which is able to sense the level by the computation in the brain, which in turn operates the muscles of your hand, thru the nervous system. The hand along with the Water Tap is is the Actuator. As the water fills up close to the top, you start reduction of the water flow and keep observing, then as it tops up, you tweak the tap to a trickle. When it reaches the limit you shut off the tap.

While you are half way filling the bucket, what happens if you take a short nap, or a friend comes by and you are get absorbed in conversation, the water overflows and goes waste. Then someone raises an alarm after the Runaway process happens. This is of minor consequence, but it is not so in the case of Temperature, Pressure and also many common systems like the driving of an Automobile. Remember the gears, brakes, accelerator to control and steer the car to the correct destination, a Runaway Process causes an accident.

In Industrial Control when a Runaway process can result in danger or wastage, it is necessary to have a multi tier protection. It is also better to limit the open loop maximum to a level which will not cause much damage. So when you need that extra heat, power or flow, use booster actuators which will operate for timed bursts in the beginning of the process. An independent watchdog controller which will shut off power supply to the entire system when a runaway possibility is sensed. This can only be manually turned on after repairing the failed part or controller. A SCADA interfaced to communication systems can further alert the security, safety and fire departments.