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Simulation Software in Process Control Lab

After attending a paper industry conference demonstration of the IDEAS v Plant Modular Pulp and Paper Operator Training Simulator from Andritz Automation, Dr. Richard Venditti, professor in the Department of Forest Biomaterials and instructor of the senior PSE Process Control Course, was so inspired that he spent more than a year trying to bring the simulation software to his process control lab. In August, he received two memory sticks from Paresh Kenkare, an NC State Engineering alumnus and VP of Simulation, PAS Division at Andritz Automation, a donation valued at more than $750,000.

Generosity from Andritz Enhances Hands-On Learning

“I really want to emphasize the generosity from Andritz and that we greatly appreciate it,” Venditti said. “I’m always looking for ways to improve and add value to the lab and with the simulator, students can go in and see all the operating systems, all the motors and pumps and controls, and get the system startedPaper Science and Engineering student James Vislocky demos the Andritz simulator from a cold condition, evaluate the operating parameters and change them to see how it will affect the whole process. They get to use the same interface they will see in industry.”

Paper Science and Engineering student James Vislocky demos the Andritz simulatorThe 12-week Fall semester lab rotates between several hands-on control experiments that demonstrate important concepts used to run a paper mill. The students learn the fundamentals of a single control loop in the process, like heat exchange or dilution, while learning to diagnose and model the systems. With the addition of the simulator, students get an interactive lab experience with the chance to look at how to strategically run the whole paper mill, instead of just individual pieces, such as in an individual feedback control loop.

“The Andritz simulator was by far my favorite part of the lab,” said Charles Joseph, a senior Paper Science and Chemical Engineering double major. “I worked at a paper mill this summer and saw a little bit of the control screens the operators used. As an intern, I had little opportunity to work with the operator interface, but it was something that deeply interested me because it controlled the entire paper mill system. I had a great understanding of the individual unit operations, but wanted to understand how they are all put together and managed. The lab simulation allowed me to play with the operator interface and attempt to start up the process from a dead stop. I gained an appreciation for how interconnected the system is and the balance that must be achieved between every aspect of the process.”

James Vislocky, a Paper Science and Chemical Engineering double major, helped develop the lab exercises for the simulator. The two-week simulation lab focused on learning how to use the software and running the paper plant from a cold start, which is more difficult than altering the controls of an already running plant. Instead of asking students to follow a list of procedures, Vislocky gave them a series of tips and an outline, leaving the rest up to the students to figure out themselves in small groups.

Lab Provides Real-World Working Situations

“By doing the lab this way, students had to problem solve themselves and try and figure out how to get the plant started themselves in a real-world situation,” Vislocky said. “Groups were not expected to be able to solve the problem easily and many groups did not get the solution at all. But they still learned through the process. The program is almost exactly like what they will see in industry, so this was a good way for them to experience what may happen in the future. It also challenged their ability to work as a team, and determine the best way to approach the problem together.”

Joseph’s lab group was one that did not find the solution for the simulation lab. Even though his group was unable to run the mill successfully, Joseph still walked away from the lab with valuable experiences.

“The lab gave me an appreciation for the difficulty of the operator’s job and the amount of training and experience that goes into successfully controlling a process,” Joseph said. “Overall the Andritz simulation was a great learning experience that directly applies to the work I have done and the work I will be doing in the future. Understanding the concepts behind process control, along with having the opportunity to work with real-world systems, gives me a great foundation to build from when I go to work in the pulp and paper industry again this summer.”

Vislocky also enjoyed the lab experience. “My favorite part of working with Dr. Venditti was how much freedom he gave me for the task,” Vislocky said. “He basically told me what he wanted, gave me a few pointers along the way, then allowed me to design the lab how I felt best. It allowed me to use my own ideas and design skills to bring the lab to life.” As a recent December 2016 graduate, Vislocky will apply his hands-on leadership experiences to his new job at International Paper in Mansfield, La.

Confidence is built and Students are Better Prepared

“Students leave the lab with the confidence that they can apply process control tools in a larger system approach, something they will be doing in their jobs,” Venditti said. “They will be better prepared to start their jobs on day one, interacting with operators in the control system. This software allows us to produce job ready students.”


Reposted from CNR Website January 3, 2017 | bnsmith6