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Pneumatic relays. In practice, in a pneumatic controller, the nozzle-fin

amplifier acts as the first stage amplifier and the pneumatic relay as the
second stage amplifier. The pneumatic relay is capable of handling a large
Figure 4-6 (a) contains a schematic diagram of a pneumatic relay. As the
back pressure of the nozzle Pb increases, the diaphragm valve moves
downward. The opening towards the atmosphere decreases and the opening
for the pneumatic valve increases, whereby the control pressure Pc
increases. When the diaphragm valve closes the aperture towards the
atmosphere, the control pressure Pc becomes equal to the supply pressure
Ps. As the back pressure of the nozzle Pb decreases, and the diaphragm
valve moves upwards and closes the air supply, the control pressure Pc
decreases to the ambient pressure Pa. For this reason, the control pressure
Pc from 0 psig to a full supply pressure, usually 20 psig.
The total movement of the diaphragm valve is very small. At all positions of
the valve, except at the position where the air supply closes, air continues
to escape into the atmosphere even after the equilibrium condition is
obtained between the back pressure of the nozzle and the pressure of
control. Therefore, Figure 4-6 (a) is a type of relay with exhaust.
There is another type of relay, without escape. In this, the exhaust air stops
when the equilibrium condition is obtained and, therefore, there is no loss of
pressurized air in a steady state operation. However, it should be noted that
the relay without exhaust must have atmospheric relief to release the Pc
control pressure from the valve with pneumatic actuator. Figure 4-6 (b)
shows a schematic diagram of a relay with no exhaust.
In any type of relay, the air supply is controlled by a valve, which in turn is
controlled by the back pressure of the nozzle. Thus, the back pressure of the
nozzle is converted into a control pressure with the power amplification. As
the control pressure Pc changes almost instantaneously with the
modifications in the back pressure of the nozzle Pb, the time constant of the
pneumatic relay is negligible compared to the other larger time constants of
the pneumatic controller and the plant.
Note that some pneumatic relays operate in reverse action. For example,
the relay in Figure 4-7 is an inverse-action relay. In it, as the back pressure
of the nozzle Pb increases, the ball valve is pushed towards the lower seat,
whereby the control pressure Pc decreases. Therefore, it is an inverse-action


Proportional pneumatic controllers (force-distance type). In the industry two

types of pneumatic controllers are used, so-called force-distance and forcebalance. Regardless of how different industrial pneumatic controllers may
look, careful study will show the close similarity of pneumatic circuit
functions. Here, pneumatic controllers of the force-distance type will be
Figure 4-8 (a) shows a schematic diagram of such a proportional controller.
The nozzle-fin amplifier is the amplifier of the first stage and the back
pressure of the nozzle is controlled by the distance of the nozzle-fin. The
relay type amplifier constitutes the second stage amplifier. The back
pressure of the nozzle determines the position of the diaphragm valve for
the second stage amplifier, which is capable of handling a large amount of
air flow.
In most pneumatic controllers, some type of pneumatic feedback is used.
The feedback of the pneumatic output reduces the actual amount of
movement of the fin. Instead of mounting the fin at a fixed point, as shown
in Figure 4-8 (b), it is usually pivoted into the feedback bellows, as shown in
Figure 4-8 (c). The amount of feedback is regulated by inserting a variable
link between the feedback bellows and the connecting point of the fin. In
turn the fin becomes a floating link. It is moved by both the error signal and
the feedback signal.
The operation of the controller in Figure 4-8 (a) is as follows. The input
signal for the two stage pneumatic amplifier is the error signal. The increase
in the error signal moves the fin to the left. This movement, in turn,
increases the back pressure of the nozzle and the diaphragm valve moves
down. This causes an increase in the control pressure. This increase causes
the bellows F to expand and move the fin to the right, whereby the nozzle
opens. Due to this feedback, the nozzle-fin displacement is very small, but
the change in control pressure may be large.
It should be noted that proper operation of the controller requires that the
feedback bellows move the fin less than the movement caused by the pure
error signal. (If these two movements are equal, a control action will not
The equations for this controller are obtained as follows. When the error is
zero, or e = 0, there is an equilibrium state with the nozzle-fin distance
equal to XX, the bellows displacement equal to Y1, the displacement of the
diaphragm equal to XZ , the back pressure of the nozzle.
FIG 4-8
Equal to PXb, and the control pressure equal to PXc. When there is an error, the
nozzle distance, bellows displacement, diaphragm displacement, nozzle
back pressure and control pressure deviate from their respective equilibrium
values. Suppose these deviations are x, y, z, P b, and c, respectively. (The
positive direction for each displacement variable is indicated by an

arrowhead in the diagram.) Assuming that the relationship between the

variation in the nozzle back pressure and the nozzle-fin distance variation is
linear, one has to
Where K1 is a positive constant. For the diaphragm valve,
Where K2 is a positive constant. The position of the diaphragm valve
determines the control pressure. If the diaphragm valve is such that the
relationship between Pc and z is linear, then
Where K3 is a positive constant. From Equations (4-13), (4-14) and (4-15),
we obtain
Where K = K1K3 / K2 is a positive constant. For the movement of the fin,
one has to
The bellows acts as a spring and the following equation is relevant:
Where A is the effective area of the bellows and ks is the equivalent
elasticity constant, which is the stiffness caused by the action of the
corrugated side of the bellows. Assuming that all the variations of the
variables are within a linear range, a block diagram for this system is
obtained from Equations (4-16), (4-17) and (4-18) as seen in Figure 4-8 (e).
In Figure 4-8 (e) it is clear that the same pneumatic controller in Figure 4-8
(a) is a feedback system. The transfer function between Pc and e is obtained
Figure 4-8 (f) contains a simplified block diagram. Since Pc and e are
proportional, the pneumatic controller in Figure 4-8 (a) is called a
proportional pneumatic controller. As observed in Equation (4-19), the gain
of the proportional pneumatic controller varies greatly by adjusting the link
connecting the fin. [The link connecting the flap is not shown in Figure 4-8
(a).] In almost all commercial proportional controllers there is an adjustment
knob or other mechanism to vary the gain by adjusting this link. As noted
earlier, the error signal moved the flap in one direction and the feedback
bellows moved it in the opposite direction, but to a smaller degree.
Therefore, the effect of the feedback bellows is to reduce the sensitivity of

the controller. The feedback principle is often used to obtain wide

proportional band controllers.
Pneumatic controllers that do not have feedback mechanisms [meaning that
one end of the fin is fixed, as in Figure 4-9 (a)] have a high sensitivity and
are called two-way pneumatic controllers or pneumatic on and off. In such a
type of controller, only a small movement between the nozzle and the flap is
required to generate a complete change from the maximum to the minimum
control pressure. The curves relating Pb with X, and Pc with X are presented
in Figure 4-9 (b). Note that a small change in X causes a large change in Pb,
which causes the diaphragm valve to be completely open or closed.

Proportional pneumatic controllers (force-balance type). Figure 4-10 shows a
schematic diaphragm of a proportional pneumatic force-balance controller.
Force-balance controllers are widely used in the industry. They are known as
stacked controllers. The principle of basic operation is not different from that
used by the force-distance controller. The main advantage of the forcebalance controller is that it eliminates many mechanical links and pivot
joints, thereby reducing the effects of friction. The principle of the forcebalance controller is then considered. In the controller of Figure 4-10, the
pressure of the reference inlet Pr and the outlet pressure Po are fed into
large diaphragm chambers. Note that a pneumatic force-balance controller
only operates on pressure signals. Therefore, it is necessary to convert the
reference input and the system output to the corresponding pressure
As in the case of the force-distance controller, this controller uses a fin, a
nozzle, and a few holes. In Figure 4-10, the perforated opening in the bottom
bed is the nozzle. The diaphragm that appears just above the nozzle
functions as a fin.
The operation of the force-balance controller of Figure 4-10 is summarized
as follows: 20 psig of air flows from a supply through an orifice, causing a
reduced pressure in the lower chamber. The air in this chamber escapes into
the atmosphere through the nozzle. The flow through the nozzle depends on
the gap and the pressure decrease through it. An increase in the pressure of
the reference inlet Pr at the same time as the outlet pressure Po remains the
same, causing the valve stem to move downwards, reducing the gap
between the nozzle and the diaphragm of the fin. This causes the control
pressure Pc to increase. Suppose that