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Systems in which the output quantity has no effect upon the input to the control process are called open-loop

control systems, and that open-loop systems are just that, open ended non-feedback systems.

But the goal of any electrical or electronic control system is to measure, monitor, and control a

process and one way in which we can accurately control the process is by monitoring its output

and feeding some of it back to compare the actual output with the desired output so as to

reduce the error and if disturbed, bring the output of the system back to the original or desired

response.

The quantity of the output being measured is called the feedback signal, and the type of control

system which uses feedback signals to both control and adjust itself is called a Close-loop

System.

A Closed-loop Control System, also known as a feedback control system is a control system

which uses the concept of an open loop system as its forward path but has one or more feedback

loops (hence its name) or paths between its output and its input. The reference to feedback,

simply means that some portion of the output is returned back to the input to form part of the

systems excitation.

Closed-loop systems are designed to automatically achieve and maintain the desired output

condition by comparing it with the actual condition. It does this by generating an error signal

which is the difference between the output and the reference input. In other words, a closed-

loop system is a fully automatic control system in which its control action being dependent on

the output in some way.

So for example, consider our electric clothes dryer from the previous open-loop tutorial.

Suppose we used a sensor or transducer (input device) to continually monitor the temperature or

dryness of the clothes and feed a signal relating to the dryness back to the controller as shown

below.

Closed-loop Control

This sensor would monitor the actual dryness of the clothes and compare it with (or subtract it

from) the input reference. The error signal (error = required dryness actual dryness) is

amplified by the controller, and the controller output makes the necessary correction to the

heating system to reduce any error. For example if the clothes are too wet the controller may

increase the temperature or drying time. Likewise, if the clothes are nearly dry it may reduce the

temperature or stop the process so as not to overheat or burn the clothes, etc.

Then the closed-loop configuration is characterised by the feedback signal, derived from the

sensor in our clothes drying system. The magnitude and polarity of the resulting error signal,

would be directly related to the difference between the required dryness and actual dryness of the

clothes.

Also, because a closed-loop system has some knowledge of the output condition, (via the sensor)

it is better equipped to handle any system disturbances or changes in the conditions which may

reduce its ability to complete the desired task.

For example, as before, the dryer door opens and heat is lost. This time the deviation in

temperature is detected by the feedback sensor and the controller self-corrects the error to

maintain a constant temperature within the limits of the preset value. Or possibly stops the

process and activates an alarm to inform the operator.

As we can see, in a closed-loop control system the error signal, which is the difference between

the input signal and the feedback signal (which may be the output signal itself or a function of

the output signal), is fed to the controller so as to reduce the systems error and bring the output of

the system back to a desired value. In our case the dryness of the clothes. Clearly, when the error

is zero the clothes are dry.

The term Closed-loop control always implies the use of a feedback control action in order to

reduce any errors within the system, and its feedback which distinguishes the main differences

between an open-loop and a closed-loop system.The accuracy of the output thus depends on the

feedback path, which in general can be made very accurate and within electronic control systems

and circuits, feedback control is more commonly used than open-loop or feed forward control.

Closed-loop systems have many advantages over open-loop systems. The primary advantage of a

closed-loop feedback control system is its ability to reduce a systems sensitivity to external

disturbances, for example opening of the dryer door, giving the system a more robust control as

any changes in the feedback signal will result in compensation by the controller.

Then we can define the main characteristics of Closed-loop Control as being:

To reduce errors by automatically adjusting the systems input.

To improve stability of an unstable system.

To increase or reduce the systems sensitivity.

To enhance robustness against external disturbances to the process.

To produce a reliable and repeatable performance.

Whilst a good closed-loop system can have many advantages over an open-loop control system,

its main disadvantage is that in order to provide the required amount of control, a closed-loop

system must be more complex by having one or more feedback paths. Also, if the gain of the

controller is too sensitive to changes in its input commands or signals it can become unstable and

start to oscillate as the controller tries to over-correct itself, and eventually something would

break. So we need to tell the system how we want it to behave within some pre-defined limits.

For a closed-loop feedback system to regulate any control signal, it must first determine the error

between the actual output and the desired output. This is achieved using a summing point, also

referred to as a comparison element, between the feedback loop and the systems input. These

summing points compare a systems set point to the actual value and produce a positive or

negative error signal which the controller responds too. where: Error = Set point Actual

The symbol used to represent a summing point in closed-loop systems block-diagram is that of a

circle with two crossed lines as shown. The summing point can either add signals together in

which a Plus ( + ) symbol is used showing the device to be a summer (used for positive

feedback), or it can subtract signals from each other in which case a Minus ( ) symbol is used

showing that the device is a comparator (used for negative feedback) as shown.

Note that summing points can have more than one signal as inputs either adding or subtracting

but only one output which is the algebraic sum of the inputs. Also the arrows indicate the

direction of the signals. Summing points can be cascaded together to allow for more input

variables to be summed at a given point.

The Transfer Function of any electrical or electronic control system is the mathematical

relationship between the systems input and its output, and hence describes the behaviour of the

system. Note also that the ratio of the output of a particular device to its input represents its gain.

Then we can correctly say that the output is always the transfer function of the system times the

input. Consider the closed-loop system below.

Where: block G represents the open-loop gains of the controller or system and is the forward

path, and block H represents the gain of the sensor, transducer or measurement system in the

feedback path.

To find the transfer function of the closed-loop system above, we must first calculate the output

signal o in terms of the input signal i. To do so, we can easily write the equations of the given

block-diagram as follows.

The output from the system is equal to: Output = G x Error

Note that the error signal, e is also the input to the feed-forward block: G

The output from the summing point is equal to: Error = Input - H x Output

If H = 1 (unity feedback) then:

The output from the summing point will be: Error (e) = Input - Output

Eliminating the error term, then:

The output is equal to: Output = G x (Input - H x Output)

Therefore: G x Input = Output + G x H x Output

Rearranging the above gives us the closed-loop transfer function of:

The above equation for the transfer function of a closed-loop system shows a Plus ( + ) sign in

the denominator representing negative feedback. With a positive feedback system, the

denominator will have a Minus ( ) sign and the equation becomes: 1 - GH.

We can see that when H = 1 (unity feedback) and G is very large, the transfer function

approaches unity as:

Also, as the systems steady state gain G decreases, the expression of: G/(1 + G)decreases much

more slowly. In other words, the system is fairly insensitive to variations in the systems gain

represented by G, and which is one of the main advantages of a closed-loop system.

Whilst our example above is of a single input, single output closed-loop system, the basic

transfer function still applies to more complex multi-loop systems. Most practical feedback

circuits have some form of multiple loop control, and for a multi-loop configuration the transfer

function between a controlled and a manipulated variable depends on whether the other feedback

control loops are open or closed.

Consider the multi-loop system below.

Any cascaded blocks such as G1 and G2 can be reduced, as well as the transfer function of the

inner loop as shown.

After further reduction of the blocks we end up with a final block diagram which resembles that

of the previous single-loop closed-loop system.

Then we can see that even complex multi-block or multi-loop block diagrams can be reduced to

give one single block diagram with one common system transfer function.

So how can we use Closed-loop Systems in Electronics. Well consider our DC motor controller

from the previous open-loop tutorial. If we connected a speed measuring transducer, such as a

tachometer to the shaft of the DC motor, we could detect its speed and send a signal proportional

to the motor speed back to the amplifier. A tachometer, also known as a tacho-generator is

simply a permanent-magnet DC generator which gives a DC output voltage proportional to the

speed of the motor.

Then the position of the potentiometers slider represents the input, i which is amplified by the

amplifier (controller) to drive the DC motor at a set speed Nrepresenting the output, o of the

system, and the tachometer T would be the closed-loop back to the controller. The difference

between the input voltage setting and the feedback voltage level gives the error signal as shown.

Closed-loop Motor Control

Any external disturbances to the closed-loop motor control system such as the motors load

increasing would create a difference in the actual motor speed and the potentiometer input set

point.

This difference would produce an error signal which the controller would automatically respond

too adjusting the motors speed. Then the controller works to minimize the error signal, with zero

error indicating actual speed which equals set point.

Electronically, we could implement such a simple closed-loop tachometer-feedback motor

control circuit using an operational amplifier (op-amp) for the controller as shown.

This simple closed-loop motor controller can be represented as a block diagram as shown.

A closed-loop motor controller is a common means of maintaining a desired motor speed under

varying load conditions by changing the average voltage applied to the input from the controller.

The tachometer could be replaced by an optical encoder or Hall-effect type positional or rotary

sensor.

We have seen that an electronic control system with one or more feedback paths is called

a Closed-loop System. Closed-loop control systems are also called feedback control systems

are very common in process control and electronic control systems. Feedback systems have part

of their output signal fed back to the input for comparison with the desired set point condition.

The type of feedback signal can result either in positive feedback or negative feedback.

In a closed-loop system, a controller is used to compare the output of a system with the required

condition and convert the error into a control action designed to reduce the error and bring the

output of the system back to the desired response. Then closed-loop control systems use

feedback to determine the actual input to the system and can have more than one feedback loop.

Closed-loop control systems have many advantages over open-loop systems. One advantage is

the fact that the use of feedback makes the system response relatively insensitive to external

disturbances and internal variations in system parameters such as temperature. It is thus possible

to use relatively inaccurate and inexpensive components to obtain the accurate control of a given

process or plant.

However, system stability can be a major problem especially in badly designed closed-loop

systems as they may try to over-correct any errors which could cause the system to loss control

and oscillate.

In the next tutorial about Electronics Systems, we will look at the different ways in which we can

incorporate a summing point into the input of a system and the different ways in which we can

feed signals back to it.

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