Closed-loop Systems

Closed-loop Systems

In the previous tutorial we saw that 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.
closed loop system

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 measure of the output is called the “feedback signal” and the type of control system which uses feedback signals to control 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

closed-loop control system

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.

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