Top Control Engineering articles, April 2013

The most-visited articles at during April 2013 included the following topics: PID tuning rules, April Fool’s Day article, salary and career survey, lower PLC software costs, remote I/O, robotic innovations and safety, lambda tuning, motion control, cyber security, and energy efficiency, among others.

By Mark T. Hoske May 8, 2013

Most-read Control Engineering online articles during April 2013 at included these topics: PID tuning rules, April Fool’s Day article, salary and career survey, lower PLC software costs, remote I/O, robotic innovations and safety, lambda tuning, motion control, cyber security, energy efficiency, model-based control, HMI software, robots that see, and rugged enclosures for tablets, among others. 

Because Control Engineering posts fresh content each business day, some articles posted later in the month don’t get as much time for exposure as those posted earlier. Therefore, articles are divided into two sections: Those posted during the past two months (March and April 2013) and those posted prior to March 2013. More about each article follows, along with links to the most-frequented Control Engineering pages during April 2013. A link to each article or page is provided.

April 2013 most-read online articles, among those posted in March and April 2013

Evolving PID tuning rules – posted March 13 – A brief history, starting with the earliest PID controllers to the most recent developments. There is more continuity than you might expect.

A video game platform as your next process controller? – posted April 1 (April Fool’s Day article) – While some say current HMIs look like video games, is it practical to run a process unit using an obsolete Xbox as a controller? One supplier says it’s possible and even economical. Get your gaming thumbs back in shape.

Control Engineering salary and career survey, 2013 – posted March 25 – Average annual base salary was $92,918 among respondents to the 2013 Control Engineering salary and career survey, with 70% expecting an increase and average bonus of $10,486. Best skills to get ahead are engineering skills, project management skills, communication and presentation skills, and computer skills. Other career advice follows. 

How to lower PLC software costs – posted April 5 – PLC vendors make much more profit from software licenses than they do selling hardware. Smart shopping can avoid some of those fees. Advice for lowering PLC licensing fees follows.

New approaches for remote I/O installations – posted March 11 – New modular I/O technologies increase your options for communication with field instrumentation and devices. These are particularly useful when longer distances are involved.

Robotic innovations, safety – posted April 10 – Cover story: U.S. robotic safety regulations are changing to accommodate global rules, allowing collaborate human-robots operation without enclosures. Simpler programming methods and designs improve industrial robot usability, flexibility, and effectiveness, as applications show.

Fundamentals of lambda tuning – posted April 16 – Understanding a particularly conservative PID controller design technique.

Motion control: Statue of Liberty rescue elevator – posted March 18 – Application Update: At the Statue of Liberty, the new fast, efficient rescue elevator features a smooth ride to the top, ensured by a motor drive, to improve safety, emergency access, and evacuation for the crown jewel of U.S. statues and tourist destinations.

Cyber security: Understanding spear phishing and defense techniques – posted April 16 – Since defending against social engineering is more training than technical, your people have to learn to recognize when it’s happening. 

Attacking energy costs – posted April 10 – Automated control solutions offer the best approach for sustained savings from energy-management programs.

Why manufacturing companies are not profiting from energy efficiency – posted April 12 – Reliance on the wrong metrics to assess value dooms many energy projects to premature death.

Do-it-yourself model-based control – March 13 – When regulatory control can’t do the job, and you can’t find an off-the-shelf APC package, your only option may be to build your own. It’s not easy, but it can be done and good ones can make a world of difference.

Information systems: The exploding power of HMI software – posted on March 28 – Once a hardware-driven technology, HMI systems now depend on the power of software to control operations and applications. Led by advancements in programming languages and innovations in interfaces and mobility, these workhorses of manufacturing are playing expanded roles throughout the enterprise—and with the influence of a new-age workforce are looking to add greater functionality in the future. 

5 industrial control system cyber security mistakes – posted April 15 – From spear phishing to encryption errors, there are many ways to let bad guys into your networks.

Next generation: Robots that see – posted April 21 – Visual servo control: Vision used for robotic or machine guidance also can be used for in-line part inspection to enhance product quality with traditional feedback systems. See photos, video.

Commercial tablets get industrial enclosures – March 25 – Making tablets rugged: Industrial-grade environmental protection can help ruggedize and protect Apple iPad, Google Android, and other tablet computers.

Regenerative power units save energy – March 13 – Spindle drives, decanter centrifuges, hoists, cranes, elevators, and torque dynamometer test rigs can save energy from frequent run and stop, deceleration with high inertia load, and overhauling torque by using a regenerative power unit. One application saves 54% of the power used, $1,017 per year.

Multi-touch technology comes to HMI/SCADA systems – posted April 4 – Multi-touch screen manipulation is three times faster than with a keyboard and a pointing device, greatly increasing operator efficiency and productivity. 

A new approach for more secure industrial networking – posted March 29 – An electric utility user argues for more secure authentication for SCADA networks. Video: Chris Sistrunk asks for broader adoption of DNP3 version 5.

How to use ISO functional safety standards – posted April 9 – Navigate and apply ISO functional safety standards using this plain-English, journeyman’s roadmap for common-sense machine safety risk reduction.

Most read online Control Engineering articles during April among those posted prior to March 2013 

Apps for Engineers – Product Exclusive: CFE Media’s Apps for Engineers software is an “app of apps,” providing an interactive directory of approximately 60 mobile engineering-related software applications useful for Control Engineering, Plant Engineering, and Consulting-Specifying Engineer areas of coverage.

How to select a VFD – These guidelines dispel the confusion about matching variable frequency drives (VFDs) and motors to fans and pumps that are typically encountered in commercial building applications. 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. And with these noble intentions in mind, the engineer will specify a VFD for his client. Oftentimes, that isn’t the end of the story for the engineer.

Fixing PID – Proportional-integral-derivative controllers may be ubiquitous, but they’re not perfect.

System Integrator Giants of 2012 – These 100 firms represent the largest system integrators of 2012, from among 2,334 in the Control Engineering Automation Integrator Guide.

2013 Engineers’ Choice AwardsControl Engineering Engineers’ Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation, and automation products as chosen by Control Engineering‘s print and online subscribers. Subscribers to the North American print and digital editions are asked to select the best products based on technological advancement, service to the industry, and market impact.

The Three Faces of PID – Although proportional-integral-derivative (PID) controllers dominate the process control landscape, they do have their limitations. PID loops can be difficult to configure properly, their behavior is not easily understood, and when they fail to produce the desired closed-loop performance, they can be difficult to troubleshoot. 

Back to Basics: Closed-loop stability – Tutorial: Stability is how a control loop reduces errors between the measured process variable and its desired value or setpoint.

Pages: Most popular Control Engineering pages in April follow

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– Compiled by Mark T. Hoske, CFE Media, Control Engineering,

Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.