Back to Basics

May 1, 2008
Are You A Controls Engineer Who Is Looking for a Refresher Course? If So, Look No More.

Control Design has put together a list of online resources that will help you remember the fundamentals of the technology you use on daily.


Know Your Cuts of Cable
Using the Wrong Wire or Cable Could Cause Machine or Safety Problems and Potential Interference

The Not-So-Odd Couple
Like an Old, Married Couple, a Motor and Its Generator Are Bound Together. One Does Not Exist Without the Other

Autonomous Cooperating Agents
In a Rod Mill, Multiple Cooling Functions Coordinate Efforts to Achieve an Overall Performance Characteristic

Warm and Fuzzy
Fuzzy Logic Can Extend Traditional Binary Logic. A Heater Control Application Demonstrates the Method

Algebraic Solution Beats Fuzzy Logic
A Non-linear, Tunable PI Controller Provides Improved Performance in Applications That Need Closed-Loop Control Response

Closed-Loop PID Algorithms in Motion/Motor Control
Differential Feed Forward Can Be Used for Numerical Controls, or Integral Feed Backward Can Be Used for Trajectory Control of Motion

Absolute Noise Corrupts Absolutely
Since Most Wiring Is Fixed in Place, Varying Currents Are The Usual Cause of Magnetic Coupling

Back to BasicsHow helpful do you find refreshers and primers on engineering topics? Do back-to-basics articles provide you with the kind of information that helps you to perform better as a controls engineer? Which topics have you found helpful in the past? And which ones would you find helpful in future issues? Let us know!

Analog Infinity Doesn’t Compute
With an A/D Converter, the Analog Signal is Approximated into a Fixed Number of Slices. The More Slices, the Higher the Resolution of the Converter

Analog I/O Is Discretely Valuable
Designing or Specifying a Device for A/D Conversion Consists of a Series of Tradeoffs. More Resolution Means More Accurate Converstion but More Expensive Hardware

Know Your Serials
Created Back in the 1960s, Serial Communication Interfacing (SCI) Today Is a Relatively Standard Method of Communicating on the Factory Floor, Particularly in Legacy Machine Control Systems

The Right HMI Tool for the Job
HMI Software Packages Designed to Run Efficiently on PDAs Don’t Have All the Features of Their Big Brothers, but Most of Them Have More Than Enough Functionality for Remote Monitoring and Control

MV Transmitters: Help or Hindrance?
Although Various Types of Multivariable Transmitters Have Been Around for Some Time, Their Value to the Skid Builder Has Been Mixed, Especially in Terms of Their Effect on Faster, More Reliable Installations

You Say FISCO, and I Say FNICO
Many Process Industries Embrace Fieldbus Technology, but When It Comes to Hazardous Environment Applications, Machine and Skid Builders Who Work in That Space Often Need Alternatives to Those Solutions

No Noise Is Good Noise
With the Ever-Increasing Use of Electronics for Industrial Machine Control and Information Processing, Machine Builders Must help Enclosures Handle Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) Up Front, at the Design Stage

Sending Clear Signals
A Few Tips for Ensuring Accurate and Dependable Signal Processing

Trouble-Free Troubleshooting
As Machine Builders, Playing “What If?” Is a Common Technique When Undertaking the Complex Chore of Troubleshooting What Went Wrong With Your System

Presentation Is Everything
Choosing a PC or Operator Panel for a Particular Machine Control Application Can Be Complex

Data Collection Needs Define Recorder Selection
For Machine Builders, Even a Basic Videographic Recorder Offers Several Advantages Over Chart Recorders

You Can Be Easily Alarmed
An Alarm System Can Be an Effective Tool in Tracking and Identifying Little Problems Before They Become Big Problems

Is Your HMI Lying to Your Customers?
If Your HMI Doesn’t Tell the Truth About Machine Control Conditions, Trouble Might Be Right Around the Corner

When RTOS Really Is Needed
Real Time Operating systems (RTOSs) Require machine Builders and Integrators to Make Choices Regarding Their Use

It Always Takes Connections
IDC Might Be Quicker to Assemble, but if You Have to Do Fault-Finding and Maintenance, Then It Is Very Difficult to Use

Shed Some Fiberoptic Light
Fiberoptic Cable Has Copper Wire Beat for Speed and Immunity. Just Know Which Type Your Application Needs

How’s Your Conditioning?
The Key to Control Is Accuracy, Both in Measurement and in Signal Conditioning. Noise Caused by Ground Loops Can Cause minor to Severe Signal Degradation

A Fine Mesh We’re in This Time
Mesh Networking Architectures Can Simplify Deployment and Are Virtually Immune to Interference

Alarming Information
You Can’t Give a Customer an Alarming Scheme That Might Overwhelm Operators

The Intrinsic Safety Alternative
Remote I/O Products Are Available That Are Intrinsically Safe and Communicate Via a Network

Hit the Brakes
A Common DC-Bus Configuration Is a Good Alternative If the Expected Amount of Regenerated Energy Doesn’t Exceed the Energy Absorption Requirements of the Other Common Drives

Encoder Inputs Lead to Good Outputs
Through Advances in Design, Encoders Have Evolved Into a More Popular Option for Applications That Once Used Resolvers

Simple Steps to Keep Enclosures Cool
For Eery 18o F Operating Temperature Rise Above Ambient, the Life Expectancy fo the Electronics Is Halved

A Touchy Subject
A Key Benefit of Touchscreen Technology Is Its Inherent Flexibility That Allows Users to Perform Multiple Functions From One Machine

ABCs of XYZ Motion
Control System Designers Who Need Multi-plane Motion in Their Applications Find They Have Three Basic Drive Mechanisms to Choose From for Building X-Y, X-Z and X-Y-Z Motion Solutions

Safety Sensor Selection Sensibilities
What Are the Distinctions Between Non-safety and Safety Industrial Sensors? A Cynic Would Say Price and Marketing, but the Real Difference Lies in Design and Approvals

If It Flows, It Should Go
A Short Primer on the Mechanical Decisions That Improve Hydraulic Control System Design

A Hub Is Not a Router Is Not a Switch
Network Performance Relies Heavily on a Thorough Knowledge of the Capabilities and Functional Differences Between Hubs, Routers and Switches


DC Drive Fundamentals
This paper examines some of the basic characteristics obtainable from DC motors and their associated solid-state controls.

Temperature Measurement Applications in Process Plants
This white paper covers some of the basics of temperature measurement, and leads into some of the technical advances that impart a higher degree of safety and reliability to process plant operation.

How to Size and Apply Dynamic Spring-Set Brakes
This paper talks about the two basic types of sprint-set brakes, power-on brakes and power-off brakes.

Roadmap for Building a Machine Vision System
This white paper presents a roadmap for developing a machine vision system based on many years of practical, hands-on experience. It is written for people who have a basic familiarity with machine vision technology, and who want to gain further insight into developing a machine vision system.

Intelligent Accelerometers Help Set Up Basic Condition Monitoring
This white paper describes how using intelligent sensors can alleviate the need for vibration experts.

Fundamentals of Motion Control
This tutorial is part of the National Instruments Measurement Fundamentals series. Each tutorial in this series will teach you a specific topic of common measurement applications by explaining theoretical concepts and providing practical examples. In this tutorial you will learn the fundamentals of a motion control system including software, motion controller, drive, motor, feedback devices and I/O.

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