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Lorenzo

Distillery Controls

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Hi All,

I’m shopping controls for my system, and not having much luck with response from a recommended source, I’m seeking a basic semi automated set of controls that would be intergrated with the agitators, cip pump,steam,, dephlegmator, and temp read outs for condenser coolant,column vapors etc.

Oh, and mash tun water pre-heat would be nice.......so how are most of you guys controlling your distillation systems, anyone care to share? Did you purchase a complete system maybe from the company I haven’t be able to contact.? Or build your own? 

I have been told that I have to spend big bucks, I don’t see that, steam valves, temp probes, nematode 4 cabinets are very reasonable online but I do not have the skills to use them 😄

Any help greatly appreciated !  

Lorenzo

 

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Im old school, nearly everything on my stills are manually controlled, with all the valves and switches centrally located. Less stuff to go wrong or fail on you. 

With that said ive set up custom control panels can be built by electricans or HVAC guys that can control all your stuff. It can get complicated though as your valves are likely going to be installed by a separate tradesman, than the person who will be setting up the controls for the valves

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Hey Lorenzo,

I can help you out. We built our own and are currently automating our entire process, including stills. Feel free to shoot me an email at adam.stumpf at stumpysspirits.com

Cheers!

Adam

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We made our own controls as well.  Most everything we do is manual except for automatic shut-offs.  It's hard to automate things like cuts as it is dependent on taste and varies with how well the mash went.

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We made our controls, in part because no one in the US who sells controls makes them robust enough and safe enough for heavy use, yet reasonably priced, in our opinion. We have seen the controllers from the two largest still manufacturers in the US, and neither are good enough, just poorly designed. Some of the German manufacturers DO make good controllers, but there are VERY expensive. So like others, we had to roll our own, when the purchased controllers failed. While we have fully programmable PID controllers that in principle could allow full automation, we have not bothered to do so in the end, because we prefer some manual monitoring as well for our stills. But power control feedback from a temperature in the system is easy to add, as is control of cooling water flow, so those are programmable through the PIDs. I think if you are going to do full automation, you would want to incorporate a dedicate computer with a more sophisticate control program, this is what some of the  German's do.

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bluestar,

like yourself I have researched and  talked to one of the big Still producers control sources, at this point it doesn’t seem like they are interested in the simple controls i’m Interested in. In fact I was so sure after meeting and discussing controls  at the Portland conference With those same suppliers that I would be able to have a reasonably priced basic control system that would let me control  temperatures, coolant, agitators ,steam etc.no such luck !  Not interested in the robot automated  controls, as I want to be a hands on Distiller.

On the other hand I have reached out to others on this forum, who seem to share the same needs, hopefully I will find a solution or figure out how to build a system myself.

lorenzo

 

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Talk to Custom Industrial Service, Inc.

Keith Burgess

kburgesscis@bellsouth.net

931-359-7742

He has done the controls for 2 distilleries for me. 

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On 6/23/2018 at 11:20 AM, bluestar said:

We made our controls, in part because no one in the US who sells controls makes them robust enough and safe enough for heavy use, yet reasonably priced, in our opinion. We have seen the controllers from the two largest still manufacturers in the US, and neither are good enough, just poorly designed. Some of the German manufacturers DO make good controllers, but there are VERY expensive. So like others, we had to roll our own, when the purchased controllers failed. While we have fully programmable PID controllers that in principle could allow full automation, we have not bothered to do so in the end, because we prefer some manual monitoring as well for our stills. But power control feedback from a temperature in the system is easy to add, as is control of cooling water flow, so those are programmable through the PIDs. I think if you are going to do full automation, you would want to incorporate a dedicate computer with a more sophisticate control program, this is what some of the  German's do.

I just set up a basic control system consisting of a temperature probe, PID controller and actuated valve for my dephlegmator.  The idea being I could control my runs by adjusting the temp setpoint on the controller throughout the run.  My problem is the temp probe has a thermowell which is acting as a heatsink and the temperature from the probe is way behind the actual temp shown on the analog thermometer.  So the controller is way behind the temp in making adjustments an d I get unacceptable temp swings.

Any advice on where to find a temp probe that can be directly inserted into a stillhead without need for thermo well? Thanks!

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Are you sensing the temp of the vapor directly?  A few thoughts. First, ensure your twell is made out of copper. Second, your twell should be a small as possible. Often you can shove an RTD down in a piece of 1/4 copper tubing. Lastly, fill the tip of the twell with thermal paste to reduce/ eliminate any air gaps between the twell wall and the sensor. 

 

 

 

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6 hours ago, Silk City Distillers said:

We use Triclamp RTD sensors

I've seen them on ebay for $12 and from Omega for $130.  What are you using?

 

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If you are hunting on eBay - search for Pyromation RTD or CIP Temperature.

You will need to decode the product numbers, but a quick search on google will get you the PDFs necessary to decide if it's right for you.  Most importantly is whether or not you can use something like a high-precision 4-wire RTD, or looking for something simple like a 2/3 wire (or even thermocouple).

If you don't necessarily need a 3A Sanitary fitting, but want triclamp, it's fairly easy to find a threaded RTD that you can screw into a threaded Triclamp adapter.

 

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On 6/26/2018 at 7:37 PM, Still_Holler said:

I just set up a basic control system consisting of a temperature probe, PID controller and actuated valve for my dephlegmator.  The idea being I could control my runs by adjusting the temp setpoint on the controller throughout the run.  My problem is the temp probe has a thermowell which is acting as a heatsink and the temperature from the probe is way behind the actual temp shown on the analog thermometer.  So the controller is way behind the temp in making adjustments an d I get unacceptable temp swings.

Any advice on where to find a temp probe that can be directly inserted into a stillhead without need for thermo well? Thanks!

Even if you get a more responsive thermal reading, there can still be lag on the reading. In programming your PID, you need to include this lag factor in your programming. Cheap PIDs may not allow this, good ones do. Most importantly, you can not adjust much faster than the rate at which the whole system responds, and that is not just the temp probe, the entire stillhead needs time to equilibrate, and I would suspect that is actually slower than your temp probe response.

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Dead time makes PID tuning infinitely more painful.

We struggled with dephlegmator temperature control with valves and thermometers located far away from the condenser.  It was not possible to compensate for the dead time, and we fought against cycling temperatures.  Ultimately, we needed to detune the loop significantly to stop the waver, but it was at the expense of tight temperature control.

Now, the temperature probe is in the dephlegmator, and the valve is located less than a foot away, and we can hold in a range measured in tenths of a degree.

 

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3 minutes ago, Silk City Distillers said:

Dead time makes PID tuning infinitely more painful.

We struggled with dephlegmator temperature control with valves and thermometers located far away from the condenser.  It was not possible to compensate for the dead time, and we fought against cycling temperatures.  Ultimately, we needed to detune the loop significantly to stop the waver, but it was at the expense of tight temperature control.

Now, the temperature probe is in the dephlegmator, and the valve is located less than a foot away, and we can hold in a range measured in tenths of a degree.

 

Some of the more sophisticate PIDs have complex "approach" algorithms that can compensate for lag in systems. These avoid overshoot and ringing, but they are sensitive to any change in the operating conditions of the unit. And they require some expertise to learn how to program, even though the better ones can be run in "autotune" to determine the programming parameters. Examples of that level of sophistication are Omega and Watlow (although there are many others). We use the latter. Typically, these run new about $200 list.

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On the still, we run the Omega CNi16s with fancy ethernet connection for data logging, I have Watlow's elsewhere.  Can't go wrong with either of those brands.

 

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4 hours ago, bluestar said:

Even if you get a more responsive thermal reading, there can still be lag on the reading. In programming your PID, you need to include this lag factor in your programming. Cheap PIDs may not allow this, good ones do. Most importantly, you can not adjust much faster than the rate at which the whole system responds, and that is not just the temp probe, the entire stillhead needs time to equilibrate, and I would suspect that is actually slower than your temp probe response.

The system lag is hard to quantify because the temp lag allows the still head to get so far out of eqbuilibrium.  My controller temp is 10 degrees behind the actual temp so by the time it starts making changes things are way off and still head equillibrium takes longer than it would if the valve began to adjust soon after setpoint temp threshhold was crossed.

I'm reading up on how derivative value on the controller works, is that the major variable you use to correct for lag time?

I ordered a copper thermowell to see if it makes a difference.  The controller is only 3 feet away.  Thanks for the feedback everyone!

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The PT100 is generally of stainless steel construction and has a diameter of 6mm.  This is perfect to insert by itself without pocket.  The PT100 is held in position with a compression fitting for perfect sealing.

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What valves are you all using in conjunction with the PID's?

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On 6/28/2018 at 11:05 AM, Silk City Distillers said:

Now, the temperature probe is in the dephlegmator, and the valve is located less than a foot away

Just to confirm.. you're sensing the temp of the vapor leaving the deph and not the coolant?

 

 

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10 hours ago, sandytoes said:

What valves are you all using in conjunction with the PID's?

Belimo. Rock solid.

 

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