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1.0Cascade Control


Cascade Control has a multi-loop structure, where the output of the controller
in the outer loop (the “primary” or “master”) is the set point of a controller in
the inner loop (the “secondary” or “slave”).

The slave measurement is an intermediate process variable that can be used

to achieve more effective control of the primary process variable. Two
controllers are used, but only one process variable is manipulated.

The primary controller maintains the primary variable at its set point by
adjusting the set point of the secondary controller. The secondary controller,
in turn responds both to set point and to the secondary controlled variable.

Figure 1 shows a cascade loop to control heat exchanger process fluid outlet
temperature by controlling the steam inlet flow.

Figure 1 – Control of Heat Exchanger Outlet Temperature using Steam

Flow as Secondary Loop.

There are three main requirements for using cascade control:

• Secondary loop must have influence over the primary loop.

• Secondary loop must be measured and controllable.
• Secondary loop process dynamics must be at least four times as fast as
primary loop process dynamics.

Cascade control is advantageous in applications where the primary process

has a large dead time or time lag and the time delays in the secondary part of
the process are smaller. Lags in a process is a major obstacles to good
temperature control. Cascade control is also desirable when the main
disturbance is in the secondary loop.

There are four main advantages gained by the use of cascade control:

a- Disturbances that are affecting the secondary variable can be corrected by

the secondary controller before their influence is felt by the primary variable.

b- The primary lag seen by the primary controller is reduced, resulting in

increased speed response.

c- Allow secondary controller to handle non-linear valve and other final control
element problems.

d- Allow operator to directly control secondary loop during certain modes of

operation (such as start-up).

Other advantages include the ability to limit the set point of the secondary
controller. In addition, by speeding up the loop response, the sensitivity of the
primary process variable to process upsets is also reduced.

On the other hand, cascade control introduces additional complexity and

increases the cost of measurement of secondary variable (assuming it is not
measured for other reasons).

1.2Cascade Control Modes

In most applications, the control loop is not functioning as a cascade loop all
the time. The operator (in the case of batch control, the batch control
program) has the ability to change modes. Following is the typical selection of
modes of operation available for a cascade control loop. Manual and Auto are
usually used during start-up while cascade is used for normal operation.

• Manual Mode - The set point of the flow controller tracks the actual flow
variable. Figure 7 shows in (a) the schematic of a Manual mode.
• Auto Mode - The output of the temperature controller tracks the set point
of the flow controller. Figure 7 shows in (b)the schematic of an Auto
• Cascade Mode - The temperature controller manipulates the set point of
the flow controller. Figure 7 shows in (c) a schematic of a Cascade mode.

Therefore, when switching from one mode to another there is no sudden

change in the output to the valve.

b) Auto


Figure 2 – Cascade Control Modes


If the secondary controller cannot deliver enough flow, even with its valve
wide open, to bring the primary measured variable to its set point, the primary
controller will "windup" and continue to increase the flow set point above the
maximum flow. Later, when the flow is sufficient to bring the primary
measurement to its set point, the primary controller must take the time to
"wind down" the secondary set point to the actual flow before the valve begins
to close.

The windup problem can be eliminated by connecting the secondary

measurement to the external feedback of the primary.
Figure 3 – Control Modes for a Heat Exchanger