Instrumentation is defined as the art and science of measurement and control.
An instrument is a device that measures and/or regulates process variables such as flow, temperature, level, or pressure. Instruments include many varied contrivances which can be as simple as valves and transmitters, and as complex as analyzers. Instruments often comprise control systems of varied processes such as refineries, factories, and vehicles. The control of processes is one of the main branches of applied instrumentation. Instrumentation can also refer to handheld devices that measure some desired variable. Diverse handheld instrumentation is common in laboratories, but can be found in the household as well. For example, a smoke detector is a common instrument found in most western homes.
Output instrumentation includes devices such as solenoids, valves, regulators, circuit breakers, and relays. These devices control a desired output variable, and provide either remote or automated control capabilities. These are often referred to as final control elements when controlled remotely or by a control system.
Transmitters are devices which produce an output signal, often in the form of a 4–20 mA electrical current signal, although many other options using voltage, frequency, pressure, or ethernet are possible. This signal can be used for informational purposes, or it can be sent to a PLC, DCS, SCADA system, or other type of computerized controller, where it can be interpreted into readable values and used to control other devices and processes in the system.
Control Instrumentation plays a significant role in both gathering information from the field and changing the field parameters, and as such are a key part of control loops.
In the early years of process control, process indicators and control elements such as valves were monitored by an operator that walked around the unit adjusting the valves to obtain the desired temperatures, pressures, and flows.
As technology evolved pneumatic controllers were invented and mounted in the field that monitored the process and controlled the valves. This reduced the amount of time process operators were needed to monitor the process. Later years the actual controllers were moved to a central room and signals were sent into the control room to monitor the process and outputs signals were sent to the final control element such as a valve to adjust the process as needed. These controllers and indicators were mounted on a wall called a control board. The operators stood in front of this board walking back and forth monitoring the process indicators. This again reduced the number and amount of time process operators were needed to walk around the units. The basic air signal used during these years was 3-15 psig.
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