Control engineering is concerned with controlling a dynamic system or plant. A dynamic system can be a mechanical system, an electrical system, a fluid system, a thermal system, or a combination of two or more types of system. The behaviour of a dynamic system is described by differential equations. Given the model (differential equation), the inputs and the initial conditions, we can easily calculate the system output.

A plant can have one or more inputs and one or more outputs. Generally a plant is a continuous-time system where the inputs and outputs are also continuous in time. For example, an electromagnetic motor is a continuous-time plant whose input (current or voltage) and output (rotation) are also continuous signals. A control engineer manipulates the input variables and shapes the response of a plant in an attempt to influence the output variables such that a required response can be obtained.

A plant is an open-loop system where inputs are applied to drive the outputs. For example, a voltage is applied to a motor to cause it to rotate. In an open-loop system there is no knowledge of the system output. The motor is expected to rotate when a voltage is applied across its terminals, but we do not know by how much it rotates since there is no knowledge about the output of the system. If the motor shaft is loaded and the motor slows down there is no knowledge about this. A plant may also have disturbances affecting its behaviour ...

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