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Control engineering

In control engineering and control theory the transfer function is derived using the Laplace

The transfer function was the primary tool used in classical control engineering. However, it has
proven to be unwieldy for the analysis of multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) systems, and
has been largely supplanted by state space representations for such systems. In spite of this, a
transfer matrix can be always obtained for any linear system, in order to analyze its dynamics
and other properties: each element of a transfer matrix is a transfer function relating a particular
input variable to an output variable.

Closed-loop poles are the positions of the poles (or eigenvalues) of a closed-loop transfer
function in the s-plane. The open-loop transfer function is equal to the product of all transfer
function blocks in the forward path in the block diagram. The closed-loop transfer function is
obtained by dividing the open-loop transfer function by the sum of one (1) and the product of all
transfer function blocks throughout the feedback loop. The closed-loop transfer function may
also be obtained by algebraic or block diagram manipulation. Once the closed-loop transfer
function is obtained for the system, the closed-loop poles are obtained by solving the
characteristic equation. The characteristic equation is nothing more than setting the denominator
of the closed-loop transfer function to zero (0).

In control theory there are two main methods of analyzing feedback systems: the transfer
function (or frequency domain) method and the state space method. When the transfer function
method is used, attention is focused on the locations in the s-plane where the transfer function
becomes infinite (the poles) or zero (the zeroes). Two different transfer functions are of interest
to the designer. If the feedback loops in the system are opened (that is prevented from operating)
one speaks of the open-loop transfer function, while if the feedback loops are operating
normally one speaks of the closed-loop transfer function. For more on the relationship between
the two see root-locus.

[edit] Closed-loop poles in control theory

The response of a system to any input can be derived from its impulse response and step
response. The eigenvalues of the system determine completely the natural response (unforced
response). In control theory, the response to any input is a combination of a transient response
and steady-state response. Therefore, a crucial design parameter is the location of the
eigenvalues, or closed-loop poles.

In root-locus design, the gain, K, is usually parameterized. Each point on the locus satisfies the
angle condition and magnitude condition and corresponds to a different value of K. For negative
feedback systems, the closed-loop poles move along the root-locus from the open-loop poles to
the open-loop zeroes as the gain is increased. For this reason, the root-locus is often used for
design of proportional control, i.e. those for which .
[edit] Finding closed-loop poles
Consider a simple feedback system with controller , plant and transfer function in the feedback
path. Note that a unity feedback system has and the block is omitted. For this system, the open-
loop transfer function is the product of the blocks in the forward path, . The product of the blocks
around the entire closed loop is . Therefore, the closed-loop transfer function is

The closed-loop poles, or eigenvalues, are obtained by solving the characteristic equation . In
general, the solution will be n complex numbers where n is the order of the characteristic

The preeceeding is valid for single input single output systems (SISO). An extension is possible
for multiple input multiple output systems, that is for systems where and are matrices whose
elements are made of transfer functions. In this case the poles are the solution of equation:

In control systems , systems are classified into two groups: 1) Open loop systems, 2) Closed
loop systems.

Open loop systems are systems in which the output of a system is not used as a variable to
control the system.

Open loop control systems use the input variables to calculate the output based on the "open loop
transfer function" of the system. The output is not fedback to modify the controlled output. There
are many reasons to use open loop control such as simplifying the control system, quicker
response of the system, to reduce the possiblility of oscillation and sometimes to lower cost.

An example of the use of open loop transfer function in

control system is in the control of the wing surfaces on a modern figther plane. The closed loop
implenmentaion would make the control much slower (cost is clearly not an issue in this

There are very good references for the fundamentals on the main site such as

Note for moderators, the statements below are incorrect. Open loop systems are systems in which
input to the system is not controlled by the present output.
In open loop systems, problems are solved by trying to avoid them in the first place, ie., by good

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Introduction to Naval Weapons Engineering

Control Systems Engineering

Open and Closed Loop Systems

The most fundamental concept for control systems engineering is the block
diagram. The simplest element of a block diagram looks like this:
Figure 1. Open loop control system.

This is also a complete system by itself. This system takes the input and
generates output through the action of the plant. The details of the internal
workings of the plant are unspecified, and to some extent irrelevant. All we
are concerned with here is the relationship between the input and output. A
well-behaved system might have the output proportional to the input, but it
needn't be so. Your stove top burner is an example. The input is the control
knob. You turn it to one of its settings, somewhere between off and fully on.
The plant is the burner itself, which outputs heat. In this case the amount of
heat is proportional to the input.

A system which operates in this manner is known as an open-loop system. This

distinguishes it from another type known as closed-loop systems. These systems
utilize feedback, which is derived from the output. Here is a block diagram of
a closed-loop system.

2. Closed loop control system.

Continuing with the kitchen theme, your oven is a closed loop system. You
input the temperature you desire and the plant (oven) outputs heat. As the
oven heats up, the thermostat provides feedback to the oven, which in turn
reduces the heat output. Eventually, steady-state is reached at the desired
temperature. Now, it is possible to make this system work with an open-loop
system, but the design engineer must have near-perfect knowledge of how much
heat output will sustain the desired operating temperature. If he is
inaccurate or something changes in the heat balance equation, the oven will
not operate at the desired temperature.

Here is a short comparison of the two fundamental types of control systems:

Table 1. Comparison of open and closed loop control systems.

open loop systems closed loop systems

simple design more accurate
less sensitive to change in
accuracy depends on calibration
unlikely to become unstable smooth response
wider bandwidth
can become unstable

If we restrict ourselves to linear systems, then we may take over a wide range
of mathematics especially suited for these systems. The technique uses the
Laplace transform. The details are unimportant for now, but it provides a
great simplification. Let me explain how.

First, suppose we have an electrical circuit. If we provide input in the form

of a voltage that varies with time, vin(t),then typically the output vout(t) is
the solution to some complicated set of differential equations. But if you
convert the input and output into their Laplace transforms, where

R(s) = {vin(t)} is the Laplace transform of the input, and

C(s) = {vout(t)} is the Laplace transform of the output.

The new independent variable is "s", which can be interpreted as the spatial
frequency, with units of cycles/meter. It is also possible to reverse the
Laplace transform, therefore recovering the output in its original form (i.e.
voltage or current as a function of time). For example -1{R(s)} = vin(t).

Here is a short table of Laplace transform pairs for commonly encountered


Table 2. Laplace transform pairs.

Time domain: f(t)= -1

{F(s)} Laplace domain: F(s) = {f(t)}
a (constant) 1/s
at (ramp) a/s2
e-at (exponential) 1/(s + a)
sin(at) a/(s2 + a2)
cos(at) s/(s2 + a2)

The Transfer Function

For linear systems, the simple relationship between R(s) and C(s):

C(s) = G(s) R(s)

where G(s) is known as the transfer function. The transfer function can be
determined from detailed analysis of the plant, using differential equations.
So this method is not particularly simple if this were the only problem to
solve. The great simplification occurs when plants are combined with other
plants and feedback loops. If the transfer function of each plant is known,
then they may be combined using ordinary algebraic methods instead of
differential equations. All that is required is to obtain the solution is to
take the inverse Laplace transform after all the manipulation is completed.
Its similar to reducing a complicated circuit in to an equivalent impedance
and voltage (Thevenin equivalent).

The method can be summarized in steps:

Change variables from time "t" to spatial frequency "s" using the Laplace

Algebraically manipulate combinations of transfer functions to find the

relationship between the input and output (i.e. a single transfer function).

Compute the output in s.

Change back to the original variable t using the inverse Laplace transform.

Let's see this in action on a closed-loop system. All the signals are now
represented as functions of the new variable s.

Figure 3 . Closed loop system in Laplace domain.

Here, we have two elements, the plant with transfer function, G, and feedback
transfer function, H. The action of the summing junction is to subtract the
feedback signal B(s) from the input R(s) with the result known as the error
signal, E(s) = R(s) - B(s).

We exploit the properties of Laplace transforms and write the following


C(s) = G(s) E(s)

E(s) = R(s) - B(s)

B(s) = H(s) C(s)

If we want to know the relationship between the output and the input (and who
wouldn't?) we eliminate the extra variable.

C = G E
= G(R-B)

= G(R - HC)

C(1+GH) = GR

C/R = G/(1+GH)

Again we have a relatively simple relationship between the input and the
output. In fact the term G/(1+GH) is also a transfer function for the closed-
loop system. If we were to give a separate label like CLTF (closed-loop
transfer function), then

C(s) = CLTF(s)R(s)

This process is known as block reduction. It turns out that it is always

possible to reduce a complication block diagram into a single transfer
function. If you were to analyze some complicated weapons system of computers
and hardware, eventually you could (theoretically) reduce its operation to a
few transfer functions which connect the input variables to the output

This is the reverse process of the systems approach where large projects are
divided into smaller ones. We would expect it to work both ways of course.
When learning how things work it is always better to start with the big
picture and then focus on the details as they become important.

System Response

Since the majority of control systems used in weapons are closed-loop systems,
we now consider how a generic system will respond to a step change in the
input. An example might be a missile on a heading of 330o responding to a new
input course of 270o. How the system responds will depend on the exact nature
of the transfer function. There are three main ways in which the system can

Under-damped response. The system will change the output quickly to the new
value but in the process will overshoot the desired output. The output will
settle into the new value after one or more oscillations. If we plot the
response, it might look like:
4. Response of under-damped system.

The output will always overshoot the desired output, and the maximum value is
called the peak overshoot. When the output oscillates (goes above and below
the final value at least once), the systems is considered to be under-damped.
The length of time it takes the system to reach its final value is called the
settling time.

Over-damped. In this case, the response is quite slow. The output will
sluggishly approach its final value and there will be no overshoot.

Figure 5. Response of over-damped system.

Critically damped. This is the dividing line between over and under damping.
Critically damping may or may not overshoot the final value, but there will be
no oscillation. Critical damping reaches it final value in the minimum amount
of time. There is only a small range of parameters which will achieve critical
damping, and therefore it is rarely achieved. Critical damping should be
thought of as an idealized situation that differentiates between over and
under damping.
Figure 6. Response of critically damped system.

It is not always clear that the system should be designed to be critically

damped, it depends on the application. For instance, if the system cannot
tolerate any overshoot whatsoever, it would be wise to make the system
slightly over-damped. On the other hand, if the input is constantly changing,
and the quickest initial response is needed, then the system should be
slightly under-damped.

Example: How do you classify the shock absorbing system on a car?

When the shocks are new, the car will respond quickly to a step change in
input (i.e. a bump in the road). The car will usually overshoot and may or may
not oscillate. The system is probably just slightly under-damped.

As the shocks age, the dampers wear out, and the system will become more
under-damped. When a bump is encountered, the car will oscillate a few cycles
before settling down.