Top Control Engineering articles for 2013


Top 20 articles read during 2013, among those posted prior to 2013

1. Control Engineering Engineers’ Choice Awards

Prior to 2013, winners, honorable mentions, and finalists were available from 2012; and finalists were posted for 2013. The collection of finalists provides some of the most-useful products to advance automation, control, and instrumentation productivity.

2. How to select a VFD

These guidelines dispel the confusion about matching variable frequency drives (VFDs) and motors to fans and pumps. While the motivation to increase energy efficiency could be financial (reduced energy costs) or ethical (reduced greenhouse gas emissions associated with power production), it is taken for granted that VFDs are an easy way to improve energy efficiency in a motor application. 

3. Control Engineering System Integrator Giants of 2012

Control Engineering published a list of the 100 largest automation system integrators based on annual system integration revenue, after surveying system integration firms in the Control Engineering Automation Integrator Guide. The article also covers issues critical to system integrators. 

4. Tuning thermal PID loops

When dealing with critical temperature applications, PID controllers are a common regulatory approach, but tuning these often requires a different strategy than other types of loops. Auto-tuning features can help if you understand them.

5. Control Engineering salary survey, career advice – Salary and career survey from 2012 provides benchmarking for those involved in the control engineering discipline and identifies leading trends among survey respondents. A large write-in section offers significant advice in major categories, such as continuing education, workplace strategies, attitude, communication, and degree or specialties.

6. Inside Machines: PC versus PLC: Comparing control options

Advice helps with choosing controller hardware, PC-based hardware, and programmable logic controllers (PLCs). To choose between a PLC or PC, analyze and compare characteristics that could differentiate the two technologies, such as operation, robustness, serviceability, hardware integration, security, safety, programming, and cost. Graphics illustrate some key considerations. This was among top-read articles for five months.

7. System Integrators of the Year for 2013

Automation Integrator Guide cover story: Control Engineering recognizes the best system integrators in the industrial automation business. (This is included in the December 2012 issue.) The winners are...

8. Network redundancy reduces risk, downtime

Building network redundancy into the industrial network infrastructure helps avoid unplanned production stoppages. Practical guidelines from Belden follow on selecting the right network redundancy “insurance policy” for an application.

9. Disturbance-rejection vs. setpoint-tracking controllers

Designing a feedback control loop starts with understanding its objective as well as the process’s behavior.

10. Fixing PID

Proportional-Integral-Derivative controllers may be ubiquitous, but they’re not perfect. Mechanical PID mechanisms have been supplanted by pneumatic, electronic, and computer-based devices, and the PID calculation has been tweaked to provide tighter control. 

11. Permanent magnet motors outperform induction motors in many applications

Permanent magnet synchronous motors offer significant advantages on high-energy-consuming and high-dynamic applications, compared to induction motors. See table, photo gallery.

12. 5 best ways to extend Ethernet

For many applications of TCP/IP networking, the 100-meter range limit of copper Ethernet cable becomes a problem. With conversion and extension, networks can cover distances that are measured in kilometers.

13. Successful lean manufacturing implementation: 5 fundamental jigsaw pieces

Implementing lean manufacturing requires participants to review job environment and satisfaction, motivate participation, demand leadership responsibility, develop new behavior patterns, and insist on lean methods and tools.

14. Artificial intelligence: Fuzzy logic explained

Fuzzy logic for most of us: It’s not as fuzzy as you might think and has been working quietly behind the scenes for years. Fuzzy logic is a rule-based system that can rely on the practical experience of an operator, particularly useful to capture experienced operator knowledge. Here’s what you need to know.

15. Direct-drive wind turbines flex muscles

A different drivetrain design that eliminates the gearbox between a turbine’s rotor and generator is attracting wind turbine manufacturers in the quest for higher power output, increased offshore reliability, and potential cost savings over the system’s lifetime. See photos, diagram, links.

16. UML use cases, sequence diagrams: easily converted into executable code

Engineering and IT Insight: UML (Unified Modeling Language) is the language of software engineering, and State Models in UML are used to define internal logic. When state diagrams, use case diagrams, and sequence diagrams are combined with UML class diagrams they define a system, can be easily understood by non-programmers, and can be rapidly converted into executable code.

17. Codes and regulations: Electrical controls’ dirty little secret: We don’t follow NFPA rules

Of course safety is important, but most don’t follow NFPA 70e safety rules for working on an energized electrical panel. Risky? Yes. Unsafe? No, according to this system integrator. Perhaps industrial control panels need their own arc flash standard. (Do you follow the rules when working on control panels? Link to anonymous survey results. See related articles.)

18. Reduce energy consumption: Cement production

How conducting manufacturing energy assessment can help identify a wide range of changes to help reduce consumption. Metering, power quality, load shedding, motor management, power factor, and energy optimization all can help cement operations and other plants, as well.

19. Advanced motor design: New motors reach new applications

Permanent magnets, axial, transverse, and radial flux designs optimize torque, power, efficiency, size, weight, and other motor performance parameters, as explained in this February Control Engineering feature article. Reader feedback added below on Feb. 16.

20. Ask Control Engineering: Using 2-wire proximity sensors

Dear Control Engineering: Is it practical to replace a 3-wire proximity sensor with 2-wire type?

- Compiled by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering,


See other top articles, for several prior years, linked at bottom of this posting online.

Article collection: Control Engineering System Integrator Hall of Fame – To identify and recognize the best providers of system integration services, each year Control Engineering judges evaluate applications and name the leading automation integrators. This collection of articles and videos highlights winners and has provided advice since 2007. 

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