A distributed control system (DCS) refers to a control system usually of a manufacturing system,process or any kind of dynamic system, in which the controller elements are not central in location (like the brain) but are distributed throughout the system with each component sub-system controlled by one or more controllers. The entire system of controllers is connected by networks for communication and monitoring.
DCS is a very broad term used in a variety of industries, to monitor and control distributed equipment.
- Electrical power grids and electrical generation plants
- Environmental control systems
- Traffic signals
- radio signals
- Water management systems
- Oil refining plants
- Chemical plants
- Pharmaceutical manufacturing
- Sensor networks
- Dry cargo and bulk oil carrier ships
A DCS typically uses custom designed processors as controllers and uses both proprietary interconnections and communications protocol for communication. Input and output modules form component parts of the DCS. The processor receives information from input modules and sends information to output modules. The input modules receive information from input instruments in the process (a.k.a. field) and transmit instructions to the output instruments in the field. Computer buses or electrical buses connect the processor and modules through multiplexer or demultiplexers. Buses also connect the distributed controllers with the central controller and finally to the Human-Machine Interface (HMI) or control consoles. See Process Automation System.
Elements of a distributed control system may directly connect to physical equipment such as switches, pumps and valves or may work through an intermediate system such as a SCADA system.
Distributed Control Systems (DCSs) are dedicated systems used to control manufacturing processes that are continuous or batch-oriented, such as oil refining, petrochemicals, central station power generation, pharmaceuticals, food & beverage manufacturing, cement production, steelmaking, and papermaking. DCSs are connected to sensors and actuators and use setpoint control to control the flow of material through the plant. The most common example is a setpoint control loop consisting of a pressure sensor, controller, and control valve. Pressure or flow measurements are transmitted to the controller, usually through the aid of a signal conditioning Input/Output (I/O) device. When the measured variable reaches a certain point, the controller instructs a valve or actuation device to open or close until the fluidic flow process reaches the desired setpoint. Large oil refineries have many thousands of I/O points and employ very large DCSs. Processes are not limited to fluidic flow through pipes, however, and can also include things like paper machines and their associated variable speed drives and motor control centers, cement kilns, mining operations, ore processing facilities, and many others.
A typical DCS consists of functionally and/or geographically distributed digital controllers capable of executing from 1 to 256 or more regulatory control loops in one control box. The input/output devices (I/O) can be integral with the controller or located remotely via a field network. Todays controllers have extensive computational capabilities and, in addition to proportional, integral, and derivative (PID) control, can generally perform logic and sequential control.
DCSs may employ one or several workstations and can be configured at the workstation or by an off-line personal computer. Local communication is handled by a control network with transmission over twisted pair, coaxial, or fiber optic cable. A server and/or applications processor may be included in the system for extra computational, data collection, and reporting capability.