In a closed-loop system

Define open loop control system


open loop feed forward systemLikewise, if something happens to disturb the systems output without any change to the input value, the output must respond by returning back to its previous set value. In the past, electrical control systems were basically manual or what is called an Open-loop system with very few automatic control or feedback features built in to regulate the process variable so as to maintain the desired output level or value.

For example, an electric clothes dryer. Depending upon the amount of clothes or how wet they are, a user or operator would set a timer (controller) to say 30 minutes and at the end of the 30 minutes the drier will automatically stop and turn-off even if the clothes are still wet or damp.

In this case, the control action is the manual operator assessing the wetness of the clothes and setting the process (the drier) accordingly.

So in this example, the clothes dryer would be an open-loop system as it does not monitor or measure the condition of the output signal, which is the dryness of the clothes. Then the accuracy of the drying process, or success of drying the clothes will depend on the experience of the user (operator).

However, the user may adjust or fine tune the drying process of the system at any time by increasing or decreasing the timing controllers drying time, if they think that the original drying process will not be met. For example, increasing the timing controller to 40 minutes to extend the drying process. Consider the following open-loop block diagram.

Open-loop Drying System

Then an Open-loop system, also referred to as non-feedback system, is a type of continuous control system in which the output has no influence or effect on the control action of the input signal. In other words, in an open-loop control system the output is neither measured nor “fed back” for comparison with the input. Therefore, an open-loop system is expected to faithfully follow its input command or set point regardless of the final result.

Also, an open-loop system has no knowledge of the output condition so cannot self-correct any errors it could make when the preset value drifts, even if this results in large deviations from the preset value.

Another disadvantage of open-loop systems is that they are poorly equipped to handle disturbances or changes in the conditions which may reduce its ability to complete the desired task. For example, the dryer door opens and heat is lost. The timing controller continues regardless for the full 30 minutes but the clothes are not heated or dried at the end of the drying process. This is because there is no information fed back to maintain a constant temperature.

open-loop motor controlThen we can see that open-loop system errors can disturb the drying process and therefore requires extra supervisory attention of a user (operator). The problem with this anticipatory control approach is that the user would need to look at the process temperature frequently and take any corrective control action whenever the drying process deviated from its desired value of drying the clothes. This type of manual open-loop control which reacts before an error actually occurs is called Feed forward Control

The objective of feed forward control, also known as predictive control, is to measure or predict any potential open-loop disturbances and compensate for them manually before the controlled variable deviates too far from the original set point. So for our simple example above, if the dryers door was open it would be detected and closed allowing the drying process to continue.

If applied correctly, the deviation from wet clothes to dry clothes at the end of the 30 minutes would be minimal if the user responded to the error situation (door open) very quickly. However, this feed forward approach may not be completely accurate if the system changes, for example the drop in drying temperature was not noticed during the 30 minute process.

Then we can define the main characteristics of an “Open-loop system” as being:

  • There is no comparison between actual and desired values.
  • An open-loop system has no self-regulation or control action over the output value.
  • Each input setting determines a fixed operating position for the controller.
  • Changes or disturbances in external conditions does not result in a direct output change.


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