cod. 1008815

Academic year 2023/24
2° year of course - Second semester
- Andrea VOLPI
Academic discipline
Impianti industriali meccanici (ING-IND/17)
Attività formative affini o integrative
Type of training activity
48 hours
of face-to-face activities
6 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit

Learning objectives

Knowledge and understanding: by means of frontal lectures, the student will acquire the knowledge necessary to describe the methods and devices for industrial control and automation and to understand the design, implementation and validation criteria. The student will also learn the main structures and operating principles of automatic machines and of the main subsystems that allow automated operation, in addition to the techniques for the design of drives and control systems.
Applying knowledge and understanding: through practical exercises, the student will learn how to apply the acquired knowledge in a real design context. The students will be involved, in groups, in a year’s project that will allow them to extend and apply, through practical activities on a reduced scale, the theoretically acquired knowledge related to the design and construction of an automated system.
Making judgments: the student will be able to understand, and critically evaluate, the main automation systems and the adequacy of the design solutions for the realization of a specific production cycle. In particular, the student will be able to choose the most appropriate automation system and the most suitable hardware devices for the specific case, evaluating their performance and robustness.
Communication skills: through the lectures and the year’s project, the student will acquire specific vocabulary concerning industrial automation. It is expected that, at the end of the course, the student will be able to communicate, in oral and written form, the main contents of the course, e.g. ideas, engineering problems and related solutions. The student will be able to communicate his / her knowledge adequately and to understand and use common tools, such as tables, plant schemes, flow charts, numerical spreadsheets, control schemes, hardware and software solutions.
Learning skills: the student who has attended the course will be able to enhance his/her knowledge through the autonomous consultation of specialized texts, scientific or popular magazines, technical catalogs, etc., in order to deal with more complicated problems and be prepared for his/her chosen career or further specific training courses in the same field.


There are no compulsory prerequisites.

Course unit content

The aim of the course is to provide the students with a general overview of design, management, control and implementation of automated systems for food industry plants. The contents proposed during the lectures concern, in the first part of the course, of an introduction to industrial automation and construction of the human interface systems; the second part of the course describes the main hardware components used for industrial automation, automation strategies and software structure of the controller. The theoretical contents presented during the course will be further illustrated and developed through practical laboratory activities, during which the students will apply the acquired knowledge through the realization of a prototype.

Full programme

Why Automation?—Industrial process, Undesired behavior of process, Types and classifications of process, Unattended, manually attended, and fully automated processes, Needs and benefits of automation, Process signals
Automation System Structure—Functions of automation subsystems, Instrumentation, control, and human interface, Individual roles
Instrumentation Subsystem—Structure and functions, Types of instrumentation devices, Interface to control subsystem, Interfacing standards, Isolation and protection
Control Subsystem—Functions and structure, Interfaces to instrumentation and human interface subsystems
Human Interface Subsystem—Construction, Active display and control elements, Types of panels, Interface to control subsystem
Automation Strategies—Basic strategies, Open and closed loop, Discrete, continuous, and Hybrid
Programmable Control Subsystem—Processor-based subsystem, Controller, Input/output structure, Special features—communicability and self-supervisability
Hardware Structure of Controller—Construction of controller, Major functional modules, Data transfer on the bus, Structure and working of functional modules, Integration
Software Structure of Controller—Difference between general-purpose computing and real-time computing, Real-time operating system, Scheduling and execution of tasks, Program interrupt
Programming of Controller—Programming of automation strategies, higher- level languages, IEC 61131-3 standard, Ladder logic diagram, Function block diagram
Advanced Human Interface—Migration of hardwired operator panel to software-based operator station, Layout and features, Enhanced configurations, Logging station, Control desk
Types of Automation Systems—Structure for localized and distributed process, Centralized system, Decentralized/distributed system, Remote/networked system, Multiple operator stations, Supervisory control and data acquisition
Special Purpose Controllers—Customization of controller, Programmable logic controller, Loop controller, Controller, Remote terminal unit, PC-based controller, Programmable automation controller
System Availability—Availability issues, Improvement of system availability, Cold and hot standby, Standby/redundancy for critical components
Common Configurations—Configurations with operator stations, Supervisor stations, Application stations
Advanced Input/Output System—Centralized I/O, Remote I/O, and Fieldbus I/O, Data communication and networking, Communication protocol
P&I Diagrams: Circles and Symbols, Label Numbering
Automation Strategies: Control of an evaporator, Control of heat exchangers, Control of a boiler
Controllers: Introduction, Open Chain Control, Closed Chain Control, Feedback Control, P Controller, PI Controller, PID Controller, Overview of Control Schemes
Calibration: Calibration or tuning methods, Open loop calibration method, Closed loop method
Special configurations: Feedforward control, Mathematical analysis, Cascade control, Report control, Multi-stage control
Introduction: Arduino and Raspberry Pi, features and functionality, implementable control systems
Basic electronics
Arduino: programming environment (IDE), language features, programs to evaluate the main features of the controller
Raspberry Pi: operating system (Raspbian), use of Node-Red, programs to evaluate the main features of the system


The slides of the course (not protected by copyright) in PDF format, and the material used during the lectures and exercises (plant layouts, Excel sheets, videos), are shared and made available to the student through the ELLY teaching platform. In addition, the student can refer to the following texts for the exam preparation:
K.L.S. Sharma - Overview of Industrial Process Automation – Elsevier
Jonathan Love - Process Automation Handbook – Springer
Guide to the SparkFun Inventor’s Kit for Arduino – Sparkfun
Simon Monk - Hacking Electronics
Dogan Ibrahim - Microcontroller based temperature monitoring and control

Teaching methods

The course counts 6 CFUs (one CFU, University Credit equals one ECTS credit and represents the workload of a student during educational activities aimed at passing the exams), which corresponds to 48 hours of lectures and laboratory activities. The teaching method consists of lectures, exercises and laboratories. During the lectures, the theory will be presented and discussed in order to support and favour a deep understanding of the subjects from a theoretical and design point of view. During the lab and exercises, using also computers and educational or commercial software, students will be required to apply the theory to an exercise, a real case study, or a project developed according to the methodological criteria illustrated during lectures and in the bibliographic and didactic material. The realization in group (maximum 3 or 4 people) of an interdisciplinary year’s project, will allow the student to extend and apply the acquired knowledge through practical activities, on a reduced scale, based on the design and construction of automated systems. The slides and notes used during the lectures and lab will be uploaded on the Elly platform at the beginning of the course. Notes, slides, spreadsheets, tables and all shared material is considered as an integral part of the teaching material. Non-attending students are reminded to check the available teaching material and the instructions provided by the teacher through the Elly platform, which is the only communication tool used for direct contact between teacher and students. On this platform, day by day, the topics discussed in class are indicated. These must be considered as the contents that must be used for the preparation of the final exam.

Assessment methods and criteria

The learning assessment consists in a written test, based on open and/or closed questions and lasting about 1 hour, followed by the discussion of the year’s project, which must be presented by a written report of a maximum of 20 pages.
The written test normally consists of about 5 questions that can focus on theoretical contents, demonstrations, exercises addressed in the classroom and in the lab; demonstrations and theoretical questions have a weight equal to 1; plant layouts and technical drawings weight 2; exercises and simple software programs weight 3. The final mark of the written test is evaluated by assigning to each question a rating from 0 to 30 and then by the weighted average (rounded up) of the individual assessments. The written test is sufficient if the final mark is equal to or higher than 18/30.
The voluntary year’s project (group work) must be agreed with the teacher at the beginning of the course, and it consists of a practical problem concerning the main contents of the lectures and exercises. The project ends with the delivery of the work and of a technical report of the activity (maximum 20 pages). The project is evaluated as follows:
project development (max 10 points): understanding of the requirements and objectives, analysis of the prerequisites, definition of functionality, performance and constraints, project, realization, integration, testing and validation;
working method (max 10 points): independence, proactivity and creativity; research, analysis, evaluation and selection of different solutions, systematic approach, communication within the members of the group and with the teacher;
results (max 5 points): achievement of the objectives;
documentation (max 5 points): structure, completeness and correctness, style.
The sum of the points obtained in the project corresponds to the final mark of the project expressed in thirties. The project and report is sufficient if the final mark is equal to or higher than 18/30.
The exam is passed if the student reaches the sufficiency (equal or higher than 18 points over 30) in both the written test and the year’s project. If the exam is passed, the final grade will be given by the average of the marks obtained in the two.
In the event of a full vote (30/30), the examination committee may grant the honour (lode) by evaluating clarity and precision of the answers provided (or, in the case of the project, the quality of the documentation).

Other information

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