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The Difference Between a Limit Controller and a Process Controller

Learn more about the difference between limit controllers and process controllers.

When it comes to kiln temperature controllers, there are two broad categories: process controllers and limit controllers. So, what’s the difference?

Process Controllers vs Limit Controllers: Function & Use Cases

If you use an at home kiln or a studio kiln, chances are you’re more familiar with a process controller. Process controllers, also known as programmable digital controllers, automatically adjust kiln temperature to execute kiln firing schedules with very little user involvement.

Limit controllers, on the other hand, are currently more commonly used with ICS control systems, industrial kilns, and manual kilns. Also known as high limit or safety limit controllers, limit controllers monitor kiln temperature and ensure that the kiln automatically shuts off if the kiln exceeds a specified temperature.

Process controllers execute process; limit controllers enforce limits. Process controllers are a primary kiln control method. Limit controllers, while not usually suitable to be the primary control method, are an important part of kiln safety and can protect you, your equipment, and your property in the case of relay or system failure.

The TAP II Kiln Controller is an example of a process controller that allows users to automatically execute full firing schedules.
The TAP II Kiln Controller is an example of a process controller that allows kiln operators to automatically execute full firing schedules.

 

If I Already Have a Process Controller Why Would I Need a Limit Controller?

If you’re reading this article and you already have a process controller, you might be asking: Why would I need a limit controller?

The answer? Safety.

Even though advanced kiln controllers, such as TAP and TAP II, provide max temperature safety shutoff in case of relay failure, redundancy is the key to safety. Safety limit controllers such as TAP Monitor add an additional layer of safety. When installed and wired to a redundant safety relay, TAP Monitor will automatically shut off your kiln if it exceeds a specified temperature – even if your primary relay fails.

Benefits of TAP Monitor Limit Controller

TAP Monitor is an advanced, user-friendly kiln limit controller and pyrometric device that can be paired with any manual or automatic kiln controller to provide safety shutoff and remote temperature monitoring.

Available as a plug-and-play standalone pyrometer limit controller or as a set of configurable components for DIY installs and oven builds, TAP Monitor gives ceramicists, potters, glass artists, and bladesmiths the ability to:

  • Wire TAP Monitor to a safety relay to provide redundant safety shutoff.
  • Precisely monitor the temperature of their kiln, oven, or forge via the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App.
  • View digital pyrometric readouts from any manually controlled kiln, including remote readouts via TAP Kiln Control Mobile when TAP Monitor is connected to a local network.
  • Easily add precise, real-time digital temperature readings to their manual kiln or oven.
  • Pair TAP Monitor with their existing automatically or manually controlled kiln for remote monitoring.

The TAP Monitor is a limit controller that adds remote temperature monitoring and safety shutoff for kilns.

Explore Kiln Control Solutions by SDS Industries 

In addition to the TAP Monitor Limit Controller, the TAP Ecosystem includes a variety of programmable kiln controllers that give artists complete control of their kilns. The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide users the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use programmable digital kiln controllers on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, TAP Kiln Controllers can pair with any relay-controlled kiln or oven.

We invite you to explore our selection of programmable kiln controllers, pyrometers, standalones, and conversion kits on our online store. You can also purchase TAP Digital Controllers or TAP Controlled Kilns and Heat Treat Ovens through one of the following distributors:

Shop programmable temperature controllers.

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ICS Controllers for Industrial Control Systems

Overview of ICS Controllers for industrial Control Systems

Beyond industrial kilns, ovens, and furnaces, electric temperature controllers are used in a wide variety of industrial processes and applications. Commonly referred to as ICS controllers, electric temperature controllers are used to monitor and regulate temperatures in manufacturing or storage processes where consistent outcomes rely on precise temperature control.

Unfamiliar with the acronym? Don’t worry! Below, we’ll be exploring industrial control systems (ICS) and the role and applications of ICS controllers.

What is an Industrial Control System?

Industrial control systems (ICS) refer to the equipment and software that are used to monitor, regulate, and control the behavior of machinery in automated industrial processes. An industrial control system provides physical or digital means through which humans can interface with machinery, providing inputs (or setpoints) to tell the machinery when and how to act.

Industrial processes that utilize industrial control systems include:

  • Manufacturing
  • Factory Automation
  • Chemical Processing and Storage
  • Heat and Cooling Systems
  • Oil and Gas Processing
  • Water and Sewage Treatment
  • Telecommunications
  • Food Processing
  • Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals

Important ICS-Related Terminology

Before exploring the role of ICS controllers, there are a few terms that are important to understand:

  • Localized Control System: In localized control systems, inputs are directly entered into each individual machine via a machine-mounted control panel. In a localized control system, machinery doesn’t communicate with each other, and there is no overall view or centralized process control.
  • Centralized Control System: More sophisticated industrial control systems use sensors and electronic signals to consolidate control of all machines to a centralized control room.
  • Distributed Control System (DSC): Distributed control systems are computerized control systems that use a series of sensors and automatic controllers distributed throughout a factory. In a DSC, controllers automatically regulate the behavior of individual machines but are also connected to a centralized network so that an operator can monitor and adjust the overall process. DSCs are more efficient, consistent, and cost effective than localized or centralized control systems.
  • Process Variables (PVs): Process variables are the actual measured values of a particular part of an industrial process that is being controlled or measured. So, for example, when it comes to temperature control the process variable would be the current temperature of an industrial kiln or oven, as opposed to the desired temperature (or setpoint).
  • Setpoints (SPs): A setpoint is the desired or target value for a process variable. In terms of temperature control, the setpoint would be the desired temperature of a kiln or oven according to its firing schedule.
  • Final Control Elements (FCEs): Final control elements are the mechanical devices that physically change a process in response to setpoints within an industrial control system. These include elements, valves, and dampers.
  • Control Loops: A control loop consists of the process sensor, controller, and final control elements – basically all of the components needed to adjust process variables to match desired setpoints.
  • Human Machine Interface (HMI): A human machine interface is the user interface or dashboard from where an operator can control a machine, system, or device.
  • Discrete Controllers: Discrete controllers consist of a single control loop to directly view and interface with a single machine.
  • Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs): Programmable logic controllers are digital controllers that receive data through inputs (such as thermocouples) and uses the internal logic that’s been programmed into it to adjust outputs to matched desired setpoints. TAP Kiln Controllers are examples of programmable logic controllers.
  • SCADA Systems: SCADA stands for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition. SCADA systems consist of all hardware and software that are used to control, monitor, and gather data from industrial devices and processes – both remotely and on-site.

Understanding the Role of ICS Controllers

An ICS controller is a device where operators can input setpoints for an industrial control system. The ICS controller receives data from input sensors and adjusts outputs to the final control elements in order for the industrial control system to reach its desired setpoints.

ICS controllers play an important role in ensuring that industrial processes are executed effectively and consistently.

The TAP ICS Controller is an advanced controller for industrial control systems that rely on precise temperature inputs and outputs.
The TAP Controller by SDS Industries includes an advanced feature set for use in industrial control systems.

ICS Controllers for Temperature Control

While there are different types of ICS controllers for managing different process variables throughout an ICS, for the sake of this article we’ll be focusing on ICS controllers for temperature control. Many industrial systems rely on heating, cooling, or maintaining precise temperatures to alter or preserve the physical properties of material.

Industrial kilns, ovens, furnaces, and temperature-controlled drums, freezers, and storage units all rely on ICS kiln controllers to regulate temperature.

ICS controllers can be manual or automatic. Manual ICS controllers rely on constant user input through analog dials and switches to regulate power to final control elements. Automatic ICS controllers, on the other hand, are programmed to reach various setpoints over specific time periods and automatically adjust the final control elements to achieve the desired temperature.

Benefits and Features of TAP ICS Controllers

SDS Industries’ TAP Digital Controllers include a variety of features that make them ideal for industrial control systems, including:

  • PID (Proportional Integral Derivative) control algorithms to ensure maximum accuracy between temperature input and output.
  • The ability to create, store, edit and automatically execute an infinite number of firing profiles with an infinite number of steps.
  • The ability to remotely monitor commercial kilns and edit and execute firing processes through the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App.
  • Advanced diagnostics and preventative maintenance alerts to ensure peak performance for industrial thermal processes.
  • High quality components for maximum precision and durability.
  • Wi-Fi capability to seamlessly integrate TAP Controllers to a distributed control system.
The TAP Kiln Control Mobile App allows operators to remotely monitor and make adjustments to temperature control elements in industrial control systems.
The TAP Kiln Control Mobile App allows operators to remotely monitor and make adjustments to temperature control elements.

Explore ICS Controllers by SDS Industries

The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries are the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use ICS controllers on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, TAP Kiln Controllers can pair with any relay-controlled industrial kiln, oven, or furnace to allow you to easily manage control system setpoints.

We invite you to explore our selection of programmable ICS controllers, standalones, and conversion kits on our online store. You can also purchase TAP Digital Controllers or TAP Controlled Kilns and Heat Treat Ovens through one of the following distributors:

Shop ICS Temperature Controllers for Sale.

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What is an Industrial Kiln? Understanding Commercial Kilns, Furnaces, and Ovens

An in-depth guide to industrial kilns and industrial kiln control

Kilns aren’t just limited to home and studio applications. Industrial kilns, or commercial kilns, are used in a wide variety of industrial processes. From mass producing ceramic tableware to processing plastic, industrial kilns are used to create many of the objects you use in day-to-day life.

Compared to kilns for personal or artistic use, industrial kilns are typically much larger and more powerful, designed to process large quantities of materials in industrial settings. Designed for mass production and commercial use, industrial kilns are often permanently installed and capable of reaching extremely high temperatures.

Example of a front-loading commercial kiln.

Industries That Use Commercial Kilns

Industrial kilns, furnaces, and ovens are used across a wide variety of industrial sectors including:

  • Ceramic: Industrial kilns are used in the ceramic industry to produce tableware, pottery, tile, and other ceramic products.
  • Glass: Industrial glass kilns, furnaces, and annealers are used in the glass industry to produce windows, sheet glass, drinkware, bottles, mirrors, and more.
  • Construction and Building Materials Manufacturing: In the construction industry, commercial kilns and heat treat ovens are used to produce brick, tiles, windows, machinery, tools, and other building materials.
  • Metal Processing and Manufacturing: Industrial heat treat ovens and furnaces are used to process metal for a wide variety of applications including, but not limited to, knifemaking, jewelry production, and silverware manufacturing.
  • Plastic Processing and Manufacturing: The plastic processing and manufacturing industry uses commercial kilns to heat raw material into finished or semi-finished plastic products.
  • Food Industry: In the food industry, industrial kilns and commercial ovens are used to dry, cook, and process food.
  • Waste Management: The waste management industry uses commercial furnaces for incineration, recycling, and energy recovery.

However, these are just a few of the industries that use industrial kilns, furnaces, and ovens. Kilns and ovens are also used in the medical, pharmaceutical, electronic, automotive, military and defense, and aerospace industries (among countless others!).

Read more about the history of industrial kilns.

The Differences Between Industrial Kilns, Furnaces, and Ovens

When it comes to commercial thermal processing equipment, there are three main categories: kilns, furnaces, and ovens. Superficially, all these terms can be used interchangeably. However, typically, each of these terms is used to denote equipment used for specific use-cases or to describe equipment capable of reaching specific temperatures:

  • Industrial Kiln: More likely to be used to describe thermal processing units used to process ceramics or glass. Typically used to describe units that reach maximum temperatures of approximately 1400° C (2552° F).
  • Industrial Furnace: More likely to be used to describe thermal processing units used for metal heat treatment and metallurgy. Often used to describe units that reach peak temperatures exceeding 1400° C (2552° F), all the way up to 1750° C (3182° F).
  • Industrial Oven: More likely to be used to describe thermal processing units used for the food, electronic, medical, and pharmaceutical sectors. Often used to describe units whose processes don’t result in a fundamental phase change (such as drying, moisture reduction, and bakeout).

Industrial Kiln Controllers

Commercial kilns are “industrial grade,” which means they have more stringent requirements for kiln safety and input and output precision. Industrial kiln controllers, also known as ICS (Industrial Control Systems) kiln controllers, must be capable of executing a variety of complex firing schedules with extreme precision.

The TAP Kiln Controller is the most advanced industrial kiln controller, with precise input and output precision.

The TAP Kiln Controller by SDS Industries includes a variety of features and benefits for industrial kiln usage, such as:

  • PID (Proportional Integral Derivative) control algorithms to ensure maximum accuracy between temperature input and output.
  • Multizone temperature control to set specific temperatures in up to three different areas of an industrial kiln or oven.
  • The ability to create, store, edit and execute an infinite number of firing profiles.
  • The ability to remotely monitor commercial kilns and edit and execute firing processes through the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App.
  • Advanced diagnostics and preventative maintenance alerts to ensure peak performance for industrial thermal processes.
  • High quality components for maximum precision and durability.

Read more about the roles and functions of industrial kiln controllers.

Explore Industrial Kiln Controllers by SDS Industries

The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries are the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use industrial kiln controllers on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, TAP Kiln Controllers can pair with any relay-controlled kiln or oven to allow you to easily manage and execute your kiln firing schedules.

We invite you to explore our selection of programmable industrial kiln controllers, standalones, and conversion kits on our online store. You can also purchase TAP Digital Controllers or TAP Controlled Kilns and Heat Treat Ovens through one of the following distributors:

Shop industrial kiln controllers for sale

CTA: Choose the Most Advanced Industrial Kiln Controllers