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Specific optimal control of an aluminum casting

furnace
R. T. Bui, A. Meghlaoui and R. Ouellet

Dkpartement des Sciences Appliqutes, UniversitP du QuPbec ci Chicoutimi, Chicoutimi, Quibec,


Canada

A general structure of the spectjic optimal control has been previously formulated and used to solve the fuel
optimal problem of an aluminum casting furnace. Proportional, integral, and derivative (P, I, D) closed-loop
control were applied to a IO-order nonlinear model of the furnace. This paper analyzes the resulting control
actions and the dynamic response to a step change in the target temperature of the liquid metal. It is shown
that P and PD schemes are stable but bring about a steady-state error, whereas PI and PID schemes cause
no steady-state error but involve considerable oscillations in the transient response and longer settling times.
In view ofthe systems high thermal inertia and the need to impose limits on fuelfrow rate, it is found that a
PD scheme is the most appropriate due to the absence of overshoot and a short settling time. The method is
also applied to another optimization criteria, the minimization of temperature oscillations. This shows the
applicability of the scheme to practical industrial problems.

Keywords: specific optimal control, casting furnace, dymamic response

1. Introduction model was recently built,2 representing the furnace


In a previous paper, the authors formulated the specific (Figure I) by the equations of conservation of mass and
optimal control of nonlinear systems with a general energy and treating each component of the furnace as a
structure, and adapted it to the software COMMIN, one-dimensional heat conduction medium. The set of
developed recently for the purpose of solving continuous equations representing the chamber, the metal, the floor,
systems optimization problems using Pontryagins and the roof was nonlinear mainly due to the expressions
maximum principle. In the present work, the scheme thus describing the combustion of fuel (natural gas) and the
developed is used in a closed-loop optimal control of the radiative heat transfer. Due to the nonlinearities and the
aluminum casting furnace, and the dynamic performance fine discretizations in the conducting media (the metal,
of the furnace under such control is analyzed. The the refractories) required to ensure good representativity,
purpose is to show, through a case study, the the analytic model turned out to be too complex for
applicability of the scheme to industrial problems. control studies. A simplified nonlinear control model in
The aluminum casting furnace plays a central role in the generic form j(t) = f[y(t), u(t), t] was then derived
primary aluminum fabrication. It receives liquid from the analytic model, and an open-loop optimization
aluminum tapped from the electrolytic cells, brings it to of the fuel flow was performed on the control model using
a specified temperature while metal cleaning operation variational calculus and Pontryagins maximum princi-
and alloy preparation are carried out prior to casting. ple.3 In the simplified control model the chamber was
Solid aluminum may also be added and melted into the considered as filled with one well stirred body of gas,
liquid metal; in this case the furnace is known as a while the roof refractories were discretized into six
melter-holder. These are great energy consumers, one-dimensional slices and the metal into three slices
requiring 4.5-6 MJ/kg of metal melted, of which only (Figure 2), thus resulting in a lOth-order nonlinear model.
about 20% actually reach the metal either for melting or Minimum fuel was sought by solving the open-loop
holding. This was the motivation behind past and present optimal control problem, with the time-dependent fuel
work aimed at modelling the furnace and studying its flow, u(t), as the input and a specified value of the
control with a view of minimizing fuel cost. An analytic mid-depth liquid metal temperature, y(c), as the targeted
output. The problem consisted in bringing a given mass
of liquid metal from a known initial temperature to a
Address reprint requests to Dr. R. T. Bui at the Departement des
specified final temperature in a given time with minimum
Sciences Appliquees, Universite du Quebec a Chicoutimi, Chicoutimi,
Quebec, Canada G7H 2Bl. total fuel cost. The open-loop optima1 control problem
involved an inequality constraint imposed on the control
Received 29 November 1993; revised 18 October, 1994; accepted 1 variable, u(t), in the form of an upper and a lower limit
December 1994 of the fuel flowrate (50 5 u(t) 5 500 m3/hr). Problem
Appl. Math. Modelling 1995, Vol. 19, May
0 1995 by Elsevier Science Inc. 0307-904x/95/$10.00
655 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10010 SSDI 0307-904X(94)00035-5
Specific optimal control of an aluminum casting furnace: R. T. Bui et al.

formulation led to a two-point boundary-value problem


(TPBVP) with known initial and final conditions and
specified final time. It yielded an optimal solution I,_,,
that gave 10.9% fuel economy over the conventional
practice of constant fuel flowrate. The point was thus
made that variational calculus could be used to solve the
optimal control problems applied to industrial furnaces
or similar thermal systems.
To handle this kind of TPBVP that contains not only
differential but also algebraic equations, an algorithm
was developed and embodied in a computer program
named COMMIN, an acronym for continuous optimiza-
tion using the maximum principle with minimum
programming.4 The TPBVP was discretized with a Euler
central differentiation scheme and solved by the
Newton-Raphson method. Richardson extrapolation
was used to increase accuracy and automatically refine
the mesh as needed.

2. Previous work
In the truly (i.e., open-loop) optimal control problem, the
optimal solution, u(t), is to be found as an open-loop
control variable. The drawback of open-loop control is
W that if a perturbation occurs, the behavior of the process
will deviate from its intended optimal trajectory. In
Figure 1. Longitudinal and transversal sections of the casting
furnace: (1, 2) refractory roof, (3) stack, (4) burner, (5) loading practice a closed-loop scheme is often preferred.
doors, (6, 7,8) floor, (9, 10) metal, (11) syphon, (12) spout, and With the exception of the special case of linear
(13) thermocouples. Metal, roof, and floor are each treated as a quadratic control, the explicit implementation of an
one-dimensional heat conducting medium optimal control in closed-loop form is a difficult problem
due to the large number of parameters to be determined.
A viable alternative is a suboptimal scheme, in which a
specified structure is chosen prior to implementation as
the control law.5 In this sense it cannot be seen as truly
optimal, this is why it is referred to as specific optimal
CVll control or S.O.C.
A general structure for the specific optimal control
was formulated recently. Solved by COMMIN, it de-
termined the optimal parameter values for a closed-loop
cvv ROOF
(zon. 18) scheme. The formulation was applied to the closed-loop
lx6 control of an aluminum casting furnace.6 Various s.0.c.
____________________~~~~~ laws were studied and the corresponding solutions were
CV?
obtained and compared. The control laws used were
t-*_______-k-XY!-_--__ based on a combination of the three basic actions,
* Tcm - 1,s PI CV6
l_a!!!fL__ -- ____r ____ _ __----- namely proportional (P), integral (I), and derivative (D)
A CH =a,T,, (l)*P,l,, (2 i. cvs
actions. In other words, the control variable, u(t), had the
a,-q(1) 1, (O- 76
general form:
GAS
-Qh Q,Q,.O, l L, - 11 CVl
(x011* 7)
(4 dAy(r)
I G(O-JJ Q, .
u(t) = k,Ay(t) + ki r *A,,(t)dt + k, ~ (1)
Jo (CL
cvz
where Ay(t) is the difference between the target value and
cv3 the actual value of the mid-depth liquid metal
____--_______________ temperature.
Tcw = 0, &PI + 6,T.W CV4
The problem was solved with and without inequality
+ o,- O.(4) lW-Tc constraint imposed on u(t). For the problem without
constraint, the control laws P, PD, PI, and PID were
Figure 2. Discretization into 10 control volumes (CV) used in the applied. For the problem with constraint, the control
10th.order simplified model. T are temperatures (state variables);
laws PD, PI, and PID were considered. In both cases
Q are heat flow rates between control volumes; and subscripts C,
D, E, and F indicate interfaces between zones or with the environ- the results were compared with those of the truly
ment (open-loop) optimal scheme.

312 Appl. Math. Modelling, 1995, Vol. 19, May


Specific optimal control of an aluminum casting furnace: R. T. Bui et al.
600, . , , , , ,
Results showed that when solved without constraint 1 ,

(Figure 3), the P control law caused the highest excursion t i


_, 5oo ~~-*~_..
---------------------
of fuel flow (726 m3/hr) above the upper limit of

+-----
.
500 m3/hr. In the solution with constraint (Figure 4), a
.3 @DC l-i&L -~~.._
_
!
much smaller violation of the limit occurred with the PD
and PI laws, while the PID law caused no violation. XC, -
....
Further analysis showed that in the presence of .:.y-
constraint, the control law used must be simple but must Q.$_.
contain at least two adjustable parameters to allow the -..
required parameter adjustments without serious con-
straint violation. The higher the number of parameters p--------------------------------q
to be adjusted, the more easily a convergence can be 01 . . . 1
reached. That previous work was intented to prove that 0 10 20 40 50 60

the algorithm proposed could solve S.O.C. problems of Time~miu)


thermal systems with different forms of feedback
Figure 4. Fuel flow rates for the optimal (open-loop) and the
imposed; it stopped at those promising results, and no three specific optimal (closed-loop) control schemes, with con-
analysis of the dynamic performance of the furnace under straint on the control variable
the various closed-loop control schemes was undertaken.
Such an analysis is important to show the practical value also consult Refs. 1 and 6. Let the system be represented
of the algorithm and of the resulting control schemes, by the following n state equations, accompanied by the
and this is the motivation behind the present work. initial (t = a) and final (t = 6) conditions:

3. Review of S.O.C.formulation
W)
~ = fry(t), W), tl
dt
In this article the formulation of the S.O.C. problem,
adapted to solution by COMMIN, is applied to the WY(a), al = 0 (3)
control and dynamic performance analysis of the NCy(b), bl = 0 (4)
aluminum casting furnace under closed-loop control.
Relevance of the work comes from the fact that due to The system is subject to m inequality constraints on the
the complexity and the nonlinearity of the process, there control variables:
is no way for process engineers to know a priori which g[u(t), t] 2 0 for a I t I b (5)
control law would be best suited to their problem, both
in terms of fuel optimal control and in terms of dynamic In closed-loop s.o.c., the control law has the general
response (response time, overshoot, steady-state error, form:
oscillations). In the following, the control law and the u(t) = hCx(Q, kl (6)
dynamic behavior of the casting furnace in response to
a change in target temperature will be studied for each where x(t) is a subvector of y(t), and k is a constant
form of feedback, then results are compared and choices vector.
suggested. We wish to find k to minimize the cost function:
To begin with, this section gives a brief review of the
problem formulation, focusing on the S.O.C. part as J(k) = 0b dQ(t), u(t), tl dt (7)
opposed to the truly (open-loop) optimal alternative. For s
a more detailed presentation, the interested reader may Substituting equation (6) into equations (2), (5), and
(7) and noting that x(t) is a subvector of y(t) we obtain:

dy(Q
_ 700 y..............,....
~ = k, 4
f-L-y(t),
'...._
........
!T!!!%! dt
3 m- S.0.C.P
g i ___-__J..,,
e.o.c.Pcl
----__
k tl 2 0
gCy@), for a 5 t < b (9)
9 ? *-.. ..- 8.O.C.Pl b
_.-_-.
tl dt (10)
.,.....,, II
E 400- S.O.C.PID
-,.- ..-.._
J(k) = 4Cy(t), k,
s (1
.. A.-,
5 -_ 5..
x.., .
0 m- ..
6: Y.,
....
.
-we
Another equation must be added to ensure that k is
z 200- ,.
.....,,
_=. a constant vector:
g loo- ....__
% dk
I .I.,.,.,,%
.... ..._._. -_= 0 (11)
0
0 10 23 40 Xl 60
dt
Tiie;Pmin) The constraint in equation (9) now involves the state
Figure 3. Fuel flow rates for the optimal (open-loop) and for the
variable instead of the control variables as was the case
four specific optimal (closed-loop) control schemes, without con- in equation (5). We use the penalty method7 to take care
straint on the control variable of equation (9). A new variable z(t) is defined as the

Appl. Math. Modelling, 1995, Vol. 19, May 313


Specific optimal control of an aluminum casting furnace: R. T. Bui et al.

integral from a to b of dz(t)/dt. The latter term, dz(t)/dt, We then use COMMIN4 to solve the minimum fuel
is taken as a weighted average of the squares of the scalar problem taking as cost function the following expression:
components of equation (9) and thus, with the integrals f
initial condition set to be z(a) = 0, z(b) gives a direct J(k) = 1 U(t) dt (18)
measure of the extent of violation of inequality constraint s0
(9). where u(t) is taken from equation (1).
This new variable, z(t), is added to the cost function
J to obtain the modified cost function which we call Jmod,
and the problem now is to find k that minimizes Jmod. 4. Closed-loop control and dynamic analysis
This is done through the usual formulation using the The modelling of the aluminum casting furnace and the
technique of Lagrange multipliers in which a function development of its simplified control model have been
called Hamiltonian is defined as published previously.3 Figures I and 2 describe the
furnace and the discretization used in developing the
dz(t)
H=4+LT.f+-- (12) lOth-order simplified control model. Specific optimal
dt control was applied to the furnace and optimal fuel flow
and a nonlinear operator called the Lagrangian is rate, u(t), was determined.j Figures 3 and 4 present the
defined as fuel flow rates obtained by solving the problems without
dk(t) and with constraint on u(t), respectively, and for different
@,=H-~T.f-flT~ (13) optimal (open-loop) and specific optimal (closed-loop)
dt
control schemes. The limits imposed on fuel flow rate
where h and q are time functions called Lagrange (50 I u(t) I 500 m3/hr) exclude the P control law from
multipliers, associated with equality constraints (8) and the solution with constraint, because at the end of the
(1 l), respectively. After substituting the integrand of Jmod batch, when metal temperature tends toward its target
into equation (12), the Euler-Lagrange equations can be value, as shown by equation (1) a P control law would
applied to obtain the conditions of optimality. These require zero fuel flow rate, which violates the lower limit.
conditions are: The results of Figures 3 and 4 have been briefly reviewed
at the end of Section 2 of this article.
&_H To show the benefits of S.O.C. and the resulting
(14)
ay closed-loop structure, we now study the dynamic
behavior of the furnace under the various control laws,
aH
il= -x3 db) - W = 0 (15) in respons to a step change in the target metal
temperature. Starting from a steady state with a metal
The mixed boundary conditions of equation (15) temperature of 704C a 10% step change is imposed on
complicate the solution, and to avoid this we replace it the target metal temperature. In practice, this happens
with the following reformulation to make the problem with a batch of liquid metal must be brought from an
amenable to COMMIN: initial to a final temperature then maintained there while
awaiting the next operation.
The closed-loop systems that are about to be analyzed
o(t) = - g , w(a) = o(b) = 0 (16) are the ones obtained by solving the S.O.C. problems
where: without and with constraints on u(t), the results of which
were discussed previously6 and again presented here for
f aH
o(t) = q(t) - q(a) = - ~ dt (17) reference in Table 1. An improvement has been
s (1 ak introduced in Table 1, however. In the previous work,j

Table 1. Solutions of the minimum fuel problem, solved using optimal (open-loop) and specific optimal (closed-loop) control schemes
without and with constraint imposed on the control variable

cost
u(t) Optimal parameters function
constraint Total fuel calculated
Constraint Control violation required kd as per
on u(t) law (%) (m3) ( x k-3, ( x 1%7, equation (20)

Without constraint optimal 8.84 395.58 - - 0.0489


P 45.3 383.67 0.4724 - - 0.0559
PD 5.96 403.85 0.3073 - 0.3265 0.0494
PI 7.34 406.02 0.3451 0.5365 - 0.0496
PID 6.26 404.88 0.3207 0.2030 0.2048 0.0495
With constraint optimal 0 397.24 - 0.0489
P - - -
PD 4.36 406.23 0.2974 - 0.3497 0.0495
PI 3.56 410.75 0.3285 0.6165 0.0499
PID 0.08 415.18 0.2944 0.4597 0.1502 0.0501

314 Appl. Math. Modelling, 1995, Vol. 19, May


Specific optimal control of an aluminum casting furnace: R. T. Bui et al.

The relation is given by8:

2x5
(19)
@= (1 _ [).

For easy interpretation, in Figure 5 the metal tempera-


tures are represented in normalized form where 0
corresponds to the initial temperature (704C) and 1 is
the final (target) temperature, corresponding to a 10%
step change. The first overshoot results from the
application of the step change in the target input. This
sudden change brings about a sudden increase in fuel
flow (see equation [ 11) before the closed-loop control can
react to pull down the temperature curve. This adjusting
time is long and understandably so due to the high
0 10 20 40 50 60 thermal inertia of the furnace. This overshoot is more
Timymin) important in the case of integral actions (70.5% for PI
Figure 5. Transient responses for each of the four specific optimal control and 39.1% for PID). It can be concluded that
controls, solved without constraint imposed on u(f) integral actions are not recommended in this case due
to the systems high thermal interia, to avoid costly and
useless overshoots.
The shorter settling times are given by the P and PD
in determining the PID scheme without constraint on controls, at 3.77 and 4.11 hr, respectively. They give an
u(t), convergence was obtained with a negative value for indication on the time required for the metal temperature
ki (see Table 1 of Ref. 6). Since Ay(t) is always positive to react to a step change in the target. These settling
between time 0 and final time, for robustness a constraint times are appreciably shorter than those offered by the
of non-negativity was imposed on ki using the penalty PI control (26.77 hr) or the PID control (11.44 hr), which
method.7 The new results appear in the fifth row of Table are long due to the high temperature overshoots.
1, where all three coefficients, k,, ki, k,, are now A small steady-state error persists in the case of P
positive. control (-2.7%) and PD control (-4.1%), but is
Figure 5 shows the transient responses of each eliminated in the case of integral action. Thus, the price
of the four S.O.C. laws without constraint on u(t). To for better precision is a longer settling time and more
facilitate a comparison, the upper part of Table 2 temperature oscillations. This fact is reminiscent of the
summarizes the results in terms of: dilemma between precision and stability (if one improves,
the other worsens) that is well known to prevail in simple
overshoot, ol, in percent (the first overshoot), linear systems, although we are dealing here with a
settling time, zs, in hours. Settling time is defined as lOth-order, distributed-parameter, nonlinear system with
the time required for the transient response to enter inequality constraint. This makes the results all the more
and remain within a f 5% zone about the final interesting.
value, Figure 6 shows the transient responses of each
steady-state error, E, in percent, and, of the three S.O.C. laws obtained with the constraint
damping ratio, 5, calculated whenever applicable. imposed on u(t). The P control law is not applicable in
This ratio is evaluated by assuming these transients the problem with constraint imposed on u(t), for the
to be close to that of an underdamped linear reason already mentioned earlier at the beginning of this
second-order system. The damping ratio can then section. To facilitate a comparison, the lower part of
be deduced from II/ = In ((TJ~J where c3 is the Table 2 summarizes the results. Again, the integral action
percent amplitude of the third overshoot, if it exists. causes high overshoots: 75.5% for PI and 68.9% for PID,

Table 2. Characteristics of transient response to a 10% input step change for the various specific optimal
control laws without and with constraint on the control variable u(t)

Constraint Control Overshoot, Settling Steady-state Damping ratio,


on u(t) law 416) time, r,(h) error, E(%) r

Without constraint P 3.4 3.77 -2.7


PD 0 4.11 -4.1
PI 70.5 26.77 0
PID 39.1 11.44 0
With constraint PD 0 4.22 -4.1 -
PI 75.5 28.4 0 0.8
PID 68.9 26.4 0 -

Appl. Math. Modelling, 1995, Vol. 19, May 315


Specific optimal control of an aluminum casting furnace: R. T. Bui et al.
It will show that by properly choosing the cost function,
various criteria can be assigned to optimization. In
parallel with minimum fuel, let us include a minimization
of the temperature oscillations. The cost function J,
which for the minimum fuel problem was given by
equation (18), is now modified to become:

J = [-&(t) + m(t)] dt (20)


s0
where r is a weighting factor. To study a minimization
of oscillations, it is reasonable to choose as a starting
point a control scheme with large oscillations. The base
case chosen is therefore the PID scheme obtained with
a constraint on u(t), which is the last line of Table 2.
ov
0 10 20 40 so
I
60
For different numerical values assigned to r, Table 3
Time~rnin) gives the results of optimization in terms of percent
overshoot and corresponding maximum value of fuel
Figure 6. Transient responses for each of the three specific flow urnaX( It is noted that the higher the weighting
optimal controls, solved with constraint imposed on u(t)
factor, the smaller the resulting overshoot; but we must
also accept a higher constraint violation by u(t). On the
other hand, if we reduce that weighting factor toward 0,
we go back to the base case with 71% overshoot and no
as compared with 0% for PD control. Also, settling times
constraint violation by u(t).
are considerably longer in the presence of integral action
controls. On the other hand PD control causes no
overshoot, but gives a steady-state error while the 5. Conclusions
integral action controls do not. Here again the
A study of the specific optimal control and the resulting
precision-stability dilemma is evident.
dynamic response of the aluminum casting furnace has
To conclude this dynamic performance study, it can
been made. The article is based on the authors previous
be said that when the problem is solved without
work where the minimum fuel control problem was
constraint imposed on the control variable, u(t), P
formulated in its general form using variational calculus
control causes a very high excursion of initial fuel flow
and Pontryagins maximum principle. The resulting
above the 500 m3/hr limit. To avoid this, the problem
two-point boundary value problem was then solved by
followed closely by PD control. The drawback is that P
COMMIN, an algorithm that the authors built for the
control causes a very high excursiion of initial fuel flow
solution of this category of industrial process control.
above the 500 m3/hr limit. To avoid this, the problem
Various schemes of specific optimal control (closed-loop)
must be solved with a constraint imposed on u(t). Then
have been developed: P, PD, PI, and PID, and in this
the PD scheme becomes the best again, in view of the
article their dynamic performances are studied. It is
absence of overshoot and short settling time, if the
found that the P and PD schemes show more stability
steady-state error of 4.1% can be tolerated. Therefore for
(small or no temperature overshoot) but cause a
practical reasons, the PD control solution obtained with
steady-state error between the desired target temperature
constraint on u(t) is likely to be the most suitable for an
and the actual final temperature.
industrial application.
However, the integral actions in the PI and the PID
It is interesting to note from Table 1 that for the
schemes lead to a less stable system (higher overshoot,
minimum fuel problem solved and published previously,
longer settling time) while causing no steady-state error.
the two solutions using PD control (one obtained by
In view of practical considerations (limits on fuel flow,
solving the problem without constraint on u(t) and the
need for a short settling time, and preferably no
other with constraint) were in fact very close to each
overshoot), the PD control is found to be the most
other in terms of numerical values found for k, and k,.
The only notable difference was in the violation by u(t),
which was 5.96% in the solution without constraint, and
4.36% in the solution with constraint. Thus when a Table 3. PID control with constraint on u(f).
using cost function (20) to minimize fuel cost and
constraint was imposed, the extent of violation was temperature overshoot for different values of
reduced, but the total fuel required was increased (to weighting factor r
406.23 m3 from 403.85 m31. It can therefore be said that
PD control is most suiiable and that there is little Weighting Overshoot Fuel flow rate,
difference whether the PD control solution is obtained factor r (%) u,,Am3/hr)
by solving the problem with or without a constraint
1o-4 65 518
imposed on u(t).
10-s 69 504.7
Finally the following is another illustration of further lo-* 71 500
use of the proposed optimal control solution algorithm.

316 Appl. Math. Modelling, 1995, Vol. 19, May


Specific optimal control of an aluminum casting furnace: R. T. Bui et al.
appropriate solution for a closed-loop control of the w = variable (used in reformulating boundary
casting furnace. In spite of the complex nature of the conditions)
process and consequently of its mathematical model, the Gi = overshoot
method proposed for the determination of the specific = settling time
optimal control schemes and for the dynamic analysis of 2 = damping ratio
furnace behavior proves to be efficient and practical for E = steady-state error
the resolution of optimal control problems involving
Subscripts
casting furnaces or other similar industrial thermal
d = derivative control
processes.
f = final
i = integral control
Acknowledgments P = proportional control
max = maximum
This work is part of the research program funded by an
mod = modified
Industry Oriented Research (IOR) grant of the Natural
opt = optimal
Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of
Canada. The analytic mode1 of the aluminum casting Superscripts
furnace, from which the simplified model was later T = transpose
derived, was the result of a joint research project between = time derivative
the Universite du Quebec a Chicoutimi and Alcan
International Limited, Jonquiere, Quebec, Canada.
Thanks are also due to La Fondation de IUQAC for its
financial support of the first authors research activities.
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Appl. Math. Modelling, 1995, Vol. 19, May 317