Temperature control users expect built-in intelligence, remote PC access

Active users of temperature and power control systems report a growing need for digital control systems with the built-in intelligence required to manage information related to their processes and applications, according to a survey conducted in February 2003 by Chromalox Inc. (Pittsburgh, PA), which manufactures industrial heat and control systems.

By Jim Montague, news editor May 1, 2003

Active users of temperature and power control systems report a growing need for digital control systems with the built-in intelligence required to manage information related to their processes and applications, according to a survey conducted in February 2003 by Chromalox Inc. (Pittsburgh, PA), which manufactures industrial heat and control systems.

The anonymous survey was distributed to 1,300 users in a range of process and manufacturing industries. Respondents typically occupied engineering management or engineering technical staff positions, although a small number of corporate managers, purchasing managers and production staff also responded. The 100 responses received represent an 8% response rate.

The survey’s primary findings include:

  • 65% of respondents presently use digital temperature control systems, but more than 80% expect to be using them in two years. One third of respondents have completely replaced electromechanical systems with digital control systems throughout their operation.

  • 80% of those surveyed are satisfied with the level of accuracy their current system provides, but 20% expect to need greater accuracy in two years.

Reasons for upgrading

“Improved quality control of processing operations” proved the clear leader among reasons for upgrading existing temperature control systems, far exceeding demands for simplified procedures, cost savings and versatility. “Improved quality control” was rated 1.5 by the respondents on a 1-to-4 scale with “1” equaling “very important.” “Simplified processing procedures” was rated 2.0; “cost savings” was ranked 2.25; and versatility received a 3.0.

When specifying a new digital temperature control system, the respondents consider several intelligence features to be important. On another 1-to-4 scale with “4” as “very important,” the following features received the following ratings:

  • Alarm functions (3.31);

  • Diagnostics for internal and external faults (3.27);

  • Real-time sensing in the process loop (3.27);

  • Recording/transmitting event data (3.10);

  • Auto-tuning of control loop PID coefficients (3.04);

  • Data communications with other devices (3.02);

  • Predictive logic (2.63); and

  • Electrical excitation (2.47).

Likewise, when specifying a new SCR power controller, respondents consider the following features to be “very important” on a 1-to-4 scale with “4” as “very important:”

  • Touch safe design (3.27);

  • Built-in controller protection/diagnostics (3.10);

  • Pre-assembled components (3.09);

  • Small physical size (3.05)

  • Flexible wiring options (3.00)

  • Electronic communication (2.88);

  • Built-in power distribution (2.75); and

  • Sub-circuit connections (2.59).

The survey’s respondents add that 40% are now using higher-level SCR control features, such as self-tuning PID, predictive control and fuzzy logic. However, they expect that percentage to increase to 55% of all users in two years. Meanwhile, use of other features, such as zero crossover control and proportional firing, are expected to decrease during the next two years.

For more information, visit www.mychromalox.com .

Temperature Control and SCR Power Control User Survey

Source: Control Engineering with data from Chromalox (Pittsburgh, PA) at www.chromolox.com
What percent of your temperature control systems are?
2003 2005
Electromechanical 35% 20%
Digital 65% 80%
What percent of your temperature control systems include diagnostics?
2003 2005
With diagnostic analysis 30% 50%
Without diagnostic analysis 70% 50%
What percent of your digital temperature control systems use remote PC access for control and monitoring?
2003 2005
Use remote PC access 30% 50%
Don’t use remote PC access 70% 50%
Do you prefer built-in interface or remote PC access?
2003 2005
Built-in interface 60% 30%
PC remote access 40% 70%