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Preprints of the 8th IFAC Symposium on Advanced Control of Chemical Processes

The International Federation of Automatic Control

Furama Riverfront, Singapore, July 10-13, 2012

Valve backlash and stiction detection in integrating processes

M. Farenzena and J. O. Trierweiler

Group of Intensification, Modelling, Simulation, Control and Optimization of Processes (GIMSCOP)

Department of Chemical Engineering, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS)
Rua Luiz Englert, s/n CEP: 90.040-040 - Porto Alegre - RS - BRAZIL,
Fax: +55 51 3308 3277, Phone: +55 51 3308 4163
E-MAIL: {farenz, jorge}@enq.ufrgs.br

Abstract: Valve nonlinearities are responsible for producing limit cycles in the loop and consequently
decreasing plant performance. In the case of an integrating plant, once the loop oscillation is detected, the
engineer should distinguish between stiction and backlash, but no method is available in the literature to
address this class of problem. In this paper, it is proposed a data-driven method to distinguish between
loop stiction and backlash for integrating processes. The closed-loop pattern provides enough information
to verify when either stiction or backlash is available. The efficacy of the proposed technique is
corroborated by simulation case studies.
Keywords: Valves, Backlash, Static friction, Integrators, Hysteresis.

problems: backlash, deadband, leakage, and blocking.

However, stiction is not considered. Several works follow the
In the last twenty years, both academia and industry have same direction, whose scope is to distinguish among several
been focus on methods to evaluate in real time control loop valve problems, but they do not aim to distinguish between
performance. Many industrial surveys have provided the stiction and backlash. Bocaniala et al. (2003) have proposed a
reasons for this concern: around 60% of all industrial loops fuzzy classification solution for fault diagnosis of valve
perform poor (Bialkowski, 1993), and improve their actuators. Dstegr et al. (2006) have suggested a graph
performance means reduce loop variability and increase plant method in which each fault is described by a three levels of
reliability. Among the most frequents loop illnesses, the knowledge. Tudoroiu and Zaheeruddin (2005) have analyzed
valve has one major disorder: around of 30% of all valves HVAC systems and methods to detect and to diagnose faults,
have any degree of damage, being responsible for increase including backlash, based on frequency and spectral analysis.
significantly loop variability. Two of the most frequent valve
injuries are stiction and backlash. This paper is segmented as follows: in section 2 a brief
description about the backlash and stiction phenomena will
Stiction imposes limit-cycles in the loop, increasing its be exposed. In section 3, the method here introduced will be
variability and inserting plant-wide periodical disturbances, described. In section 4, the proposed method will be applied
what explains why the large majority of the valve related in a set of cases studies, corroborating its validity. The paper
works is focus on stiction. Backlash also increase loop ends with the concluding remarks.
variability, however in the case of open-loop stable plants,
backlash only reduces the control loop performance, but does
not insert limit-cycles, as stiction. On the other hand, when 2 STICTION: MODEL AND COMPUTATION
the plant is an integrator, a limit-cycle similar to stiction is
2.1 Deadband: definition
If a limit-cycle is detected in a given loop, it is important to
distinguish between stiction and backlash, because backlash According to Fisher-Rosemount (1999), deadband is defined
is an invertible nonlinearity, what allows a perfect as the range through which an input signal can be varied,
compensation without valve replacement. On the other hand, upon reversal of direction, without initiating an observable
stiction nonlinearity is more difficult to compensate. This is change in the output signal. Dead band is the name given to
the scope of this work: to propose a data-based method to a general phenomenon that can apply to any device. One
distinguish between stiction and backlash, in the presence of cause of valve deadband is backlash, whose definition is the
limit-cycles, for integrators. general name given to a form of dead band that results from
a temporary discontinuity between the input and output of a
In the literature, backlash detection has not received device when the input of the device changes direction. Slack,
significant interest. Hagglund (2007) has proposed a method or looseness of a mechanical connection is a typical
to detect backlash for stable loops. Moreover, techniques to example.
quantify and to compensate backlash are also introduced in
the same work. Ling et al. (2007) have introduced a The phase plot of input-output behavior of a valve where the
nonparametric statistical method to diagnose four valve backlash is seen can be described as Fig. 1. It has two

IFAC, 2012. All rights reserved. 320

8th IFAC Symposium on Advanced Control of Chemical Processes
Furama Riverfront, Singapore, July 10-13, 2012

regions: when the controller comes to rest or change its loops. Fig. 3 shows the process variable for four SISO loops,
direction (A), the valves becomes stationary until the with variable deadband, when the plant is an integrator.
deadband is overcame (B), and then the valve starts the
motion. The deadband magnitude is given by DB.

Fig. 3: Process variable behavior for integrating processes

with variable deadband.
Based on Figs. 2 and 3, it is clear the impact of plant open
Fig. 1: Typical phase plot of a valve with backlash. loop behavior, when backlash is present in the loop. When
Comparing the process output for a loop where a valve with the plant is an integrator, then a limit-cycle is imposed,
backlash is applied to an open loop stable process and to an similar to stiction behavior. It is important to distinguish
integrator, the behavior is completely distinct. In the first between these two valve damages, because backlash non-
case, only the process variability increases with the linearity can be inverted, i.e. using a simple algorithm as
increasing backlash. Fig. 2 illustrates the process variable shown by Hagglund (2007) it can be compensated. On the
(PV) for four different DB for an open loop stable process, other hand, stiction cannot be completely inverted and its
with a PI controller. The variability (2) is also shown. compensation is more difficult (Srinivasan and Rengaswamy,
In the next section the stiction phenomenon will be briefly
described and a parallel with backlash will be made.

2.2 Stiction definition and model

A valve with stiction has an apparently similar behavior then
backlash, as shows the phase plot, described in Fig. 4
(Choudhury et al., 2008) .
When the valve changes its direction (A), the valve becomes
sticky. The controller should overcome the deadband (AB)
plus stickband (BC), called staticband or apparent stiction.
Then, the valve jumps to a new position (D). The stiction
model consists of these two parameters: S (staticband) and J
(slipjump). Next, the valve starts moving, until its direction
changes again or the valve comes to rest, between D and E.
The main difference between backlash and stiction is the
Fig. 2: Process variable behavior for open loop stable slipjump, which is not present in backlash. It represents the
processes with variable deadband. abrupt release of potential energy stored in the actuator due to
For open loop stable processes, the backlash diagnostics is high static friction in the form of kinetic energy as the valve
difficult, because its effect can be confused with a poorly starts to move. The magnitude of the slipjump is crucial to
tuned controller. However, the differentiation between determine the limit-cycle amplitude and frequency.
stiction and backlash is not difficult, because only stiction Generally, the stiction impact over the loop is more
can insert a limit-cycle. aggressive than backlash, because of the jump. It inserts
On the other hand, if the process is an integrator, the process limit-cycles in both open loop stable and integrating
variable becomes oscillatory, spreading this behavior in all processes.

8th IFAC Symposium on Advanced Control of Chemical Processes
Furama Riverfront, Singapore, July 10-13, 2012

The idea behind the method is very simple. If we carefully

inspect the peaks (I) and the intermediate points (II) of the
response for backlash and stiction phenomena there is a slight
difference. Fig. 5 shows this behavior for backlash and Fig. 6
shows for stiction.

Fig. 4: Typical (IO) behavior of a valve with stiction.

In the literature, several models are available to describe
stiction behavior. In this work, the 2 parameters model
proposed by Kano et al. (2004) will be used, because its
simplicity and good agreement with the real stiction behavior.


This section describes the method here proposed to
distinguish between stiction and backlash for integrating Fig. 6: Stiction response for an integrating process peak (I)
processes. and intermediate points (II) slope.
Before, two considerations are taken: the sampling time is The slope is the core of the method: in the case of backlash
fast enough to describe the process dynamics and the loop the angle in the peak (peak) and in the middle (middle) are
does not have under-damped behavior. In the first case, if the significantly different (see Fig. 5), while in the case of
sampling time is wrongly selected, i.e. slower than necessary, stiction they are similar (see Fig. 6). Thus, the stiction and
the method will point stiction in all cases. In the second, if backlash can be easily distinguished, through the angles in
the controller is fast tuned, the algorithm will detect stiction. the peak and in the middle, as illustrated in Fig. 7.
The procedure for the method to distinguish between stiction
and backlash is following described:
1. PV data is collected and the white-noise removed;
2. The peaks and valleys are identified and the angles
for the peaks (peak) and the value between the valley
and peak (middle) are computed for each.
3. The mean value for each is computed ( and
4. The Backlash Index (BI) is computed based on
and :


Fig. 5: Backlash response for an integrating process peak

(I) and intermediate points (II) slope.

8th IFAC Symposium on Advanced Control of Chemical Processes
Furama Riverfront, Singapore, July 10-13, 2012

Tab. 1: Loop parameters used in the stiction diagnostics.

Param Description Value
KC Controller gain [0.7:0.1:1.5 2:0.5:4]
I Controller integral [1:0.2:2.4]
S Staticband [1:0.5:6]
J Slipjump [0.5:0.1:1]S
Process time constant [10:10:100]

Based on Tab. 1, a total of 52800 different scenarios have

been analyzed. In 99.8% of all cases the stiction was
correctly pointed, while in the remaining 0.2%, no conclusion
is stated by the method. None of cases the method has
detected incorrectly backlash.
In the complementary analysis, the backlash should be
diagnosed under a wide variety of loop parameters. The
values used for backlash detection are shown in Tab 2.
Tab. 2: Loop parameters used in the backlash diagnostics.
Param Description Value
KC Controller gain [0.7:0.1:1.5 2:0.5:4]
I Controller integral [1:0.2:2.4]
DB Deadband [0.5:0.5:6]
Fig. 7: Peak and middle angles for an integrating process Process time constant [10:10:100]
with backlash.
The angles are measured considering the mean and the
In this analysis, in all cases the algorithm detected the
extreme points and the neighbor. If the angles are different, in
backlash correctly. None of the cases the conclusion was null
the case of the peak, the mean angle is taken. If the data is
or misleading.
corrupted by white-noise, the mean between three points is
advised. In the second analysis, the influence of the sampling time will
be evaluated. As previously stated, if this value is high, then
The following rules are used to diagnose stiction:
the backlash detection will be spoiled. Using the same
BI 3 backlash; procedure, the deadband and process time constant will be
varied according to Tab. 2. The controller gain will be set
BI 1.5 stiction; equal to 2 and the integral constant is equal to the process
time constant. Tab. 3 shows the influence of sampling time
3 > BI > 1.5 no decision. (st) in the backlash detection.

These values have been based on a large number of Tab. 3: Percentage of backlash detection with variable
simulations. The main advantages of this method are that it is sampling time.
computationally fast and requires only routine operating data. st % of detection
Moreover, no controller tuning parameters and no
information about the valve stem are necessary. 0.1 100%
0.2 100%
0.5 100%
The objective of this section is to evaluate the proposed
method to distinguish between stiction and backlash for 0.75 90%
integrating processes, using only routine operating data. In
the first analysis, the stiction should be diagnosed, 1.0 90%
considering several plants, controllers, and stiction 2.0 78%
parameters, as described in Tab. 1. A SISO loop is used with
a PI controller and integrating plant. The stiction model is 5.0 38%
inserted between controller and plant (Hammerstein model).
In all cases, the sampling time was equal to 0.1.

8th IFAC Symposium on Advanced Control of Chemical Processes
Furama Riverfront, Singapore, July 10-13, 2012

Tab. 3 shows the impact of sampling time over the methods LING, B., ZEIFMAN, M. & LIU, M. (2007) A practical
accuracy, where increasing sampling times cause reduction in system for online diagnosis of control valve faults.
backlash detection. However, it is clear that the method does Proceedings of the IEEE Conference on Decision
not require an extremely fast sampling time. and Control.
Approaches for efficient stiction compensation in
5 CONCLUSIONS process control valves. Computers & Chemical
In this work, we have presented a novel solution to the Engineering, 32, 218-229.
problem of stiction and backlash detection in integrating TUDOROIU, N. & ZAHEERUDDIN, M. (2005) Fault
loops. The detection method is based on process variable detection and diagnosis of the valve actuators in
patterns of a valve with backlash and stiction. The slope in HVAC systems, using frequency analysis. ICIECA
peaks and in the middle of the curve provides the necessary 2005: International Conference on Industrial
information for detection. This procedure can be automated Electronics and Control Applications 2005.
using the proposed Backlash Index
The efficacy of the proposed technique was corroborated
through several simulation case studies. When backlash or
stiction should be diagnosed, a wide variety of plants,
controllers, and stiction or backlash scenarios have been
evaluated. In the first, only stiction is seen in the loop and in
the second only backlash. In both cases, the percentage of
correct detection was around 100%. No incorrect diagnostic
was provided in all cases.

The authors are very grateful for the grants from

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