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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.

Figure 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
environment
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


functions:

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
transform.

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


relationships:

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