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How Does a PID Controller Work?

A proportional integral derivative (PID) controller can be used as a means of controlling temperature, pressure, flow and other process variables. As its name implies, a PID controller combines proportional control with additional integral and derivative adjustments which help the unit automatically compensate for changes in the system.

PID Controller Basics

The purpose of a PID controller is to force feedback to match a setpoint, such as a thermostat that forces the heating and cooling unit to turn on or off based on a set temperature. PID controllers are best used in systems which have a relatively small mass and those which react quickly to changes in the energy added to the process. It is recommended in systems where the load changes often and the controller is expected to compensate automatically due to frequent changes in setpoint, the amount of energy available, or the mass to be controlled.

PID Controller
Working Principle

The working principle behind a PID controller is that the proportional, integral and derivative terms must be individually adjusted or "tuned." Based on the difference between these values a correction factor is calculated and applied to the input. For example, if an oven is cooler than required, the heat will be increased. Here are the three steps:
  1. Proportional tuning
    involves correcting a target proportional to the difference. Thus, the target value is never achieved because as the difference approaches zero, so too does the applied correction.
  2. Integral tuning
    attempts to remedy this by effectively cumulating the error result from the "P" action to increase the correction factor. For example, if the oven remained below temperature, ā€œIā€ would act to increase the head delivered. However, rather than stop heating when the target is reached, "I" attempts to drive the cumulative error to zero, resulting in an overshoot.
  3. Derivative tuning
    attempts to minimize this overshoot by slowing the correction factor applied as the target is approached.

PID Temperature Controller Working Principle

A proportional integral derivative (PID) controller can be used as a means of controlling temperature, pressure, flow and other process variables. As its name implies, a PID controller combines proportional control with additional integral and derivative adjustments which help the unit automatically compensate for changes in the system.
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