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Cost Effective Process Control Lab Setup

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Unique Laboratory Experiments and Programs Poster Session

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.410.1 - 12.410.10



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Paper Authors


Paul Villeneuve University of Maine

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Paul L. Villeneuve, P.E. is an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering Technology at the University of Maine.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract


Many four-year engineering technology programs require or offer course(s) that emphasize examining the transient behavior of systems. The systems can be mechanical, electrical, chemical, or any other engineering discipline. These courses are generally classified as classes covering control system theory. Unfortunately, examining the transient behavior of control systems is very difficult in a lab environment. Frequently, computer software is utilized to model the systems and then monitor their behavior. Since engineering technology programs stress the concept of a “hands-on” approach, efforts are continually made to utilize hardware to fabricate physical systems that can be used to demonstrate class concepts. There are several companies that offer physical systems that can be modeled. Unfortunately, my experience is that these are very expensive.

At the University of Maine, we stress the use of industrial equipment. We have developed a physical system using industrial equipment that students can readily use to validate concepts. The industrial equipment is a combination of inexpensive hardware store items, donated industrial equipment, and industrial equipment purchased at a reduced cost. This paper will describe the system and how it is used in the class to reinforce concepts. Further, it will discuss some of the lessons learned for how to build the system as quickly and as economically as possible.


Control System Concepts, Industrial Equipment Used in a Lab Environment


Courses that cover control systems material provide the opportunity to develop modeling and analysis skills of physical systems. There are two distinct system types that can be modeled. The servo-mechanism type mainly covers the area of robotics and are exact positioning. The other type is process control consisting of manipulating devices to maintain a medium within an acceptable range. There are many available educational resources that support learning activities within a lab environment with servo-mechanism type systems that are cost effective. However, process control educational resources tend to be more expensive than servo-mechanism lab equipment and available budgets may not support purchasing the equipment. This paper describes the process of developing and fabricating a single loop process control system that can be modeled, analyzed, and controlled by students.

Why Process Control

As previously described, process control type systems consist of manipulating devices to maintain a medium within an acceptable range. Typical graduates of the University of Maine’s Electrical Engineering Technology program obtain positions that involve

Villeneuve, P. (2007, June), Cost Effective Process Control Lab Setup Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1589

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