Showing posts with label temperature control. Show all posts
Showing posts with label temperature control. Show all posts

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Match the Right Temperature Sensor Configuration to the Application

industrial temperature sensor or transmitter with welded pad for heat conduction
Using a temperature sensor properly configured for
the application will result in enhanced process performance
Image courtesy Smart Sensors, Inc.
There are more temperature controlled operations than any of us could count in a lifetime. Each one exhibits an exclusive set of performance requirements and design challenges. Matching the means of temperature measurement, the control loop characteristics, and heat delivery method to the application are essential to achieving successful operation.

Step one is to measure the process temperature. This sounds simple until you start researching products and technologies for measuring temperature. Like the temperature controlled operations mentioned previously, there are more than you can count in a lifetime. To filter the possible candidates for temperature sensing devices, consider these aspects of your application and how well a particular sensor may fulfill your requirement.

  • Response Time - How rapidly the sensor will detect a change in process temperature is a function of how the sensor is constructed and how it is installed. Most temperature sensors are enclosed or encapsulated to provide protection for the somewhat vulnerable sensing element. Greater mass surrounding the sensing element will slow sensor response. Whether the slower response time will adversely impact process operation needs to be considered. More consideration is due to the manner in which the temperature sensor assembly is installed. Not all applications involve a fluid in which the sensor assembly can be conveniently immersed, and even these applications benefit from careful sensor placement.
  • Accuracy - Know what your process needs to be effective. Greater levels of accuracy will generally cost more, possibly require more care and attention to assure the accuracy is maintained. Accuracy is mostly related to the type of sensor, be it RTD, thermocouple, or another type.
  • Sensitivity - Related to the construction, installation, and type of sensor, think of sensitivity as the smallest step change in process temperature that the sensor will reliably report. The needs of the process should dictate the level of sensitivity specified for the temperature sensor assembly.
Let's look at a very simple application.
Heat tracing of piping systems is a common application throughout commercial and industrial settings experiencing periods of cold weather. Electric heat trace installations benefit from having some sort of control over the energy input. This control prevents excessive heating of the piping or applying heat when none is required, a substantial energy saving effort. A temperature sensor can be installed beneath the piping's insulation layer, strapped to the pipe outer surface. One sensor design option available to improve the performance of the sensor is a surface pad. The surface pad is a metal fixture welded to the sensing end of a temperature sensor assembly. It can be flat, for surface temperature measurements, or angled for installation on a curved surface, like a pipe. The increased surface contact achieved with the surface pad promotes the conduction of heat to the sensor element from the heated pipe in our example. This serves to reduce and improve the response time of the sensor. Adding some thermally conductive paste between the pad and the pipe surface can further enhance the performance. While the illustration is simple, the concepts apply across a broad range of potential applications that do not allow immersion of the temperature assembly in a fluid.

A simple modification or addition of an option to a standard sensor assembly can deliver substantially improved measurement results in many cases. Share your temperature measurement requirements and challenges with a process measurement specialist. Leverage your own process knowledge and experience with their product application expertise.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Create a Customized On/Off Process Control Unit

In control theory, an on/off controller is a feedback controller that switches abruptly between two states. It is often used as a control method for a process which can tolerate ongoing change in the process value within a band, referred to as the hysteresis. A common example of an on/off temperature control operation is a residential thermostat. They control the temperature of your home, turning off the heating or cooling system at your comfort setting, waiting for some significant change to occur, then turning on again to eliminate that difference. The process cycles continually. Many process operations can utilize simple on/off control action to maintain suitable conditions.

sanitary temperature transmitter RTD
Temperature Transmitter
Courtesy Smart Sensors
A PLC (programmable logic controller) can be a good candidate for creating your own on/off temperature controller with specialized additional functionality that suits your process. Implementing the temperature control operation is not difficult, and the use of a PLC allows the designer to integrate other useful functions into a single piece of hardware, functions that might not be available in a commercially available process controller.

The primary input device will be a transmitter with analog output compatible with the analog input on the PLC. For this discussion, let's assume this is a temperature control application that requires heating of the process. So, a temperature transmitter will be our primary input device. The primary output device will be a heater contactor or other power control device, the input of which must be compatible with the output of the PLC. Any other switches, pilot lights, alarms, or other devices will need to also be associated with a compatible PLC I/O point. 

The logic portion of the temperature control activity is not complex. The input signal from the temperature transmitter is converted to a working value. Depending upon the numeric muscle of your PLC, this value may be a floating point number, but integer values work suitably. Here are the logic steps needed.

  • Read temperature input value
  • Is temperature greater than or equal to the setpoint? If yes, turn off output for heater and proceed to the next step. If no, go to next step.
  • Is temperature less than or equal to the value of setpoint minus a deadband value (more on deadband below)? If yes, turn on output for heater. If no, continue to other commands that provide your additional desired functions.
Here are some points to consider.
  • Use a greater than or equal to, or less than or equal to comparison to assure that all possible numeric scenarios for process temperature are handled.
  • Deadband is a value that you employ to keep your control output from chattering rapidly between the on and off state when the process value is very close to the setpoint. It can also be used, in this case, to slow down the on/off switching of the heater and reduce wear on a mechanical contactor. Keep in mind that a 16 or 32 bit number, which is what the PLC will use for internal processing of your temperature reading, may actually pass across the setpoint value rapidly, even though a digital display of temperature will appear to be relatively stable. The constantly changing values would cause rapid changes in the output if the comparison logic did not include a deadband value. The use of a deadband creates a range of process temperature where no change in the output occurs. 
  • For this particular application, with its heating action, a separate limit control is advised. The device should derive its input signal from a source other than that of the PLC and the output of the limit control should provide a positive means of de-energizing the heater.
  • Other functions easily programmed into the PLC include alarms, pilot lights to reflect heating activity, an on/off switch for the process, and other items limited only by your ingenuity.
Not every process needs PID control. This illustration focused on temperature, but the principles are the same for almost any process. A modestly powerful PLC can provide the processing power, and input devices for temperature, humidity, moisture, pH, liquid level, flow, pressure, and more are available. Share your challenges with a process measurement specialist and develop an effective customized solution for control of your process.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Close Temperature Control of a Process Fluid Flow


sanitary temperature sensor RTD thermocouple
Temperature sensor is one component
of a successful temperature control
system
Courtesy Smart Sensors, Inc.
Temperature control is a common operation in the industrial arena. Its application can range across solids, liquids, and gases. The dynamics of a particular operation will influence the selection of instruments and equipment to meet the project requirements. In addition to general performance requirements, safety should always be a consideration in the design of a temperature control system involving enough energy to damage the system or create a hazardous condition.

Let's narrow the application range to non-flammable flowing fluids that require elevated temperatures. In the interest of clarity, this illustration is presented without any complicating factors that may be encountered in actual practice. Much of what is presented here, however, will apply universally to other scenarios.
What are the considerations for specifying the right equipment?

KNOW YOUR FLOW


First and foremost, you must have complete understanding of certain characteristics of the fluid.

  • Specific Heat - The amount of heat input required to increase the temperature of a mass unit of the media by one degree.
  • Minimum Inlet Temperature - The lowest media temperature entering the process and requiring heating to a setpoint. Use the worst (coldest) case anticipated.
  • Mass Flow Rate - An element in the calculation for total heat requirement. If the flow rate will vary, use the maximum anticipated flow.
  • Maximum Required Outlet Temperature - Used with minimum inlet temperature in the calculation of the maximum heat input required.

SELECT SYSTEM COMPONENTS WITH PERFORMANCE TO MATCH THE PROJECT


  • Heat Source - If temperature control with little deviation from a setpoint is your goal, electric heat will likely be your heating source of choice. It responds quickly to changes in a control signal and the output can be adjusted in very small increments to achieve a close balance between process heat requirement and actual heat input. 
  • Sensor - Sensor selection is critical to attaining close temperature control. There are many factors to consider, well beyond the scope of this article, but the ability of the sensor to rapidly detect small changes in media temperature is a key element of a successful project. Attention should be given to the sensor containment, or sheath, the mass of the materials surrounding the sensor that are part of the assembly, along with the accuracy of the sensor.
  • Sensor Location - The location of the temperature sensor will be a key factor in control system performance. The sensing element should be placed where it will be exposed to the genuine process condition, avoiding effects of recently heated fluid that may have not completely mixed with the balance of the media. Locate too close to the heater and there may be anomalies caused by the heater. A sensor installed too distant from the heater may respond too slowly. Remember that the heating assembly, in whatever form it may take, is a source of disturbance to the process. It is important to detect the impact of the disturbance as early and accurately as possible.
  • Controller - The controller should provide an output that is compatible with the heater power controller and have the capability to provide a continuously varying signal or one that can be very rapidly cycled. There are many other features that can be incorporated into the controller for alarms, display, and other useful functions. These have little bearing on the actual control of the process, but can provide useful information to the opeartor. 
  • Power Controller - A great advantage of electric heaters is their compatibility with very rapid cycling or other adjustments to their input power. A power controller that varies the total power to the heater in very small increments will allow for fine tuning the heat input to the process.
  • Performance Monitoring - Depending upon the critical nature of the heating activity to overall process performance, it may be useful to monitor not only the media temperature, but aspects of heater or controller performance that indicate the devices are working. Knowing something is not working sooner, rather than later, is generally beneficial. Controllers usually have some sort of sensor failure notification built in. Heater operation can be monitored my measurement of the circuit current.

SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS


Any industrial heater assembly is capable of producing surface temperatures hot enough to cause trouble. Monitoring process and heater performance and operation, providing backup safety controls, is necessary to reduce the probability of damage or catastrophe.

  • High Fluid Temperature - An independent sensor can monitor process fluid temperature, with instrumentation providing an alert and limit controllers taking action if unexpected limits are reached.
  • Heater Temperature - Monitoring the heater sheath temperature can provide warning of a number of failure conditions, such as low fluid flow, no fluid present, or power controller failure. A proper response activity should be automatically executed when unsafe or unanticipated conditions occur.
  • Media Present - There are a number of ways to directly or indirectly determine whether media is present. The media, whether gaseous or liquid, is necessary to maintain an operational connection between the heater assembly and the sensor. 
  • Flow Present - Whether gaseous or liquid media, flow is necessary to keep most industrial heaters from burning out. Understand the limitations and operating requirements of the heating assembly employed and make sure those conditions are maintained. 
  • Heater Immersion - Heaters intended for immersion in liquid may have watt density ratings that will produce excessive or damaging element temperatures if operated in air. Strategic location of a temperature sensor may be sufficient to detect whether a portion of the heater assembly is operating in air. An automatic protective response should be provided in the control scheme for this condition.
Each of the items mentioned above is due careful consideration for an industrial fluid heating application. Your particular process will present its own set of specific temperature sensing challenges with respect to performance and safety. Share your requirements with temperature sensing experts, combining your process knowledge with their expertise to develop safe and effective solutions.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Temperature Sensors for Process Measurement - Thermocouple, RTD, Thermistor

straight tube thermocouple, RTD or thermistor for temperature measurement
Simple RTD, thermocouple, thermistor
straight tube assembly
Courtesy Smart Sensors, Inc.
This post explains the basic operation of the three most common temperature sensing elements - thermocouples, RTD's and thermistors.

A thermocouple is a temperature sensor producing a micro-voltage from a phenomena called the Seebeck Effect. In simple terms, when the junction of two different (dissimilar) metals varies in temperature from a second junction (called the reference junction), a voltage is produced. When the reference junction temperature is known and constant, the voltage produced by the sensing junction can be measured and a corresponding temperature derived.

Thermocouples are widely used for industrial and commercial temperate control because they are inexpensive, exhibit appropriate accuracy for many applications, have a fairly linear temperature-to-voltage output curve, come in many “types” (different metal alloys) for many different temperature ranges, and are easily interchangeable. They require no external power to work and can be used in continuous temperature measurement applications from -185 Deg. Celsius (Type T) up to 1700 Deg. Celsius (Type B).

Common application for thermocouples are industrial processes, the plastics industry, kilns, boilers, steel making, power generation, gas turbine exhaust and diesel engines, They also have many consumer uses such as temperature sensors in thermostats and flame sensors, and for consumer cooking and heating equipment.
wire wound RTD
Coil wound RTD element
(image courtesy of Wikipedia)

RTD’s (resistance temperature detectors), are temperature sensors that produce a measurable change in resistance as the temperature of the RTD sensing element changes. They are normally designed as a fine wire coiled around a bobbin (made of glass or ceramic), and inserted into a protective sheath. They can also be manufactured as a thin-film element with the pure metal deposited on a ceramic base much like a circuit board.

thin film rtd
Thin-film RTD element
(image courtesy of Wikipedia)
The RTD wire is usually a pure metal such as platinum, nickel or copper because these metals have a predictable change in resistance as their temperature changes. RTDs offer considerably higher accuracy and repeatability than thermocouples and can be used up to 600 Deg. Celsius. They are most often used in biomedical applications, semiconductor processing and industrial applications where higher accuracy is important. Because they are made of pure metals, they tend to more costly than thermocouples. RTDs do need to be supplied an excitation voltage from the control circuitry.

The third most common temperature sensor is the thermistor. Thermistors work in a similar fashion to RTDs, in that they are a resistance based device, but instead of using pure metal, thermistors use a very inexpensive polymer or ceramic material as the element. The practical application difference between thermistors and RTD’s is the resistance response curve of thermistors. It is very non-linear, making thermistors useful over a narrower temperature range than RTDs.

thermistor
Thermistor bead with wires
(image courtesy of Wikipedia)
Thermistors however are very inexpensive and have a very fast response. They also come in two varieties, positive temperature coefficient (PTC - resistance increases with increasing temperature), and negative temperature coefficient (NTC - resistance decreases with increasing temperature). Thermistors are used widely in monitoring temperature of circuit boards, digital thermostats, food processing, and consumer appliances.

Temperature sensors are available in an almost infinite number of assemblies and configurations to accommodate every conceivable application. Share your application with a product specialist and take advantage of their application knowledge and experience.