How Does Cascade Control Work?

Posted by Ian Collins in on 12 August 2014

What is Cascade Control?

Applications with two or more capacities (such as heated jackets) are inherently difficult to control with a single control loop due to large overshoots and unacceptable lags. The solution is a cascade of two or more control loops, each with its own input, in series forming a single regulating device.

The product setpoint temperature is set on the master control loop. This is compared to the product temperature, and the master’s PID output is used to set the remote setpoint of the slave. This is scaled to suit any expected temperature. The slave loop’s natural response time should ideally be at least 5 times faster than the master.

Historically Cascade Control has commonly been achieved by using 2 or more individual controllers, however it is possible to achieve this using a dual or multi loop controller that offers cascade control functionality.

Tuning for Cascade Control

First set the master to manual mode. Tune the slave control loop using proportional control only (I & D are not normally required) then return the master to automatic mode before tuning the master. 

Example of a Cascade Control Application 

In the example below a product temperature is being controlled via a heated oil jacket. The maximum input represents 400ºC, thus restricting the jacket temperature.

Cascade Control - Temperature Control Applications

At start-up the master compares the product temperature (ambient) to its setpoint (300ºC) and gives maximum output. This sets the maximum (400ºC) setpoint on the slave, which is compared to the jacket temperature (ambient) giving maximum heater output.

As the jacket temperature rises towards setpoint, the slave’s heater output falls. The product’s temperature will also have begun rising at a rate dependant on the transfer lag between the jacket and product. This causes the masters PID output to decrease, reducing the ‘jacket’ setpoint on the slave, effectively reducing the output to the heater. This continues until the system becomes balanced.

The result is quicker, smoother control with minimum overshoot and the ability to cope with changes in the load, whilst keeping the jacket temperature within acceptable tolerances.

Multi-Loop Temperature Controllers with Cascade Control

West Pro-EC44 Dual Temperature Controller with USB Data Logger
Pro-EC44 Dual Loop Controller

KS 98-2 Multifunction Controller