## Knowledge Base

Alicat mass flow controllers have control response times as fast as 30 ms. What exactly does that mean? In this article, we discuss Alicat mass flow controller response specifications.

Watch this one-minute video to see Alicat’s control response between setpoint extremes:

## Physical time constant (τ)

The physical time constant (τ) is one of the few standards that exist when it comes to reporting response times. This constant is equal to the amount of time it takes the controller to reach 63.2% of the commanded setpoint. While this number can be useful, it reveals no information about the time required to achieve the remaining 36.8% of the setpoint change.

The oscilloscope image below shows that the Alicat reached 63.2% of the commanded setpoint in just 7.4 ms.

## Arbitrary setpoint percentage change

Many mass flow controller specifications designate an arbitrary percentage change to define their speed of response. A few of these have become common across manufacturers, such as the time required to move from 10% to 90% of the setpoint. Since the bottom and top 10% of a control response curve tend to be the most variable, this specification misses critical information about the actual performance of the control system.

For example, the image below shows that the Alicat achieved 100% of the setpoint in 11.4 ms. You can see that the oscilloscope steps are the longest at 50% of the setpoint change and are much smaller below 10% and above 90%. In this image, a 10-90% specification would have resulted in a response time of 6-7 ms.

## Settling time

Because getting to the setpoint does not guarantee that the controller will not also overshoot the intended setpoint, many manufacturers specify control response times based on settling time. This is the amount of time the controller takes to reach the setpoint and then reduce further oscillations to a given error band. For example, an error band of 2% means that settling is not achieved until the flow rate no longer oscillates outside of 2% of the setpoint.

Accuracy specifications for mass flow controllers commonly fall within the 0.5% to 2% range, but some specifications define error bands for settling as large as 10%. In the oscilloscope image below, a common-sense settling error band equivalent to the Alicat controller’s accuracy specification (1% at full scale) is achieved after just 27.6 ms.

## In case things change: Getting back to good control

Alicat ships every mainline controller—mass flow controller, pressure controller or liquid flow controller—tuned to give you the response you wanted, in the process you bought it for. If no parameters were specified, we tune them to fit parameters that are appropriate to the greatest number of conditions we encounter.

If things change in your process significantly, a smart, fast, and efficient autotune is built into our instrument’s firmware, so you can quickly bring your process back under optimal control.

## FastTrack Ordering

M/MC mass flow meters and controllers that ship in just 3-5 business days.
CALIBRATION
Standard or High Accuracy
DISPLAY
Monochrome, Color, or None
PROTOCOL
Analog, RS-232, RS-485, or Modbus RTU
CONNECTOR
MD8, Locking Industrial, DB9M, DB15
FITTINGS
NPT

METER RANGES

2 SCCM - 500SLPM

CONTROLLER RANGES

2 SCCM - 100SLPM

## Service and Support

Whether it is time for your instrument’s annual recalibration or your instrument needs a repair or upgrade,
you can fill out the Service Request Form below, email us, call us, or start a live chat session to get the service process started.

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Duiven, The Netherlands