What is SAMA diagram?


SAMA is an acronym standing for Scientific Apparatus Makers Association, referring to a unique form of diagram used primary in the power generation industry to document control strategies. These diagrams focus on the flow of information within a control system rather than on the process piping or instrument interconnections (wires, tubes, etc.). The general flow of a SAMA diagram is top-to-bottom, with the process sensing instrument (transmitter) located at the top and the final control element (valve or variable-speed motor) located at the bottom. No attempt is made to arrange symbols in a SAMA diagram to correlate with actual equipment layout: these diagrams are all about the algorithms used to make control decisions, and nothing more.

A sample SAMA diagram appears here, showing a flow transmitter (FT) sending a process variable signal to a PID controller, which then sends a manipulated variable signal to a flow control valve (FCV):


A cascaded control system, where the output of one controller acts as the setpoint for another controller to follow, appears in SAMA diagram form like this:

In this case, the primary controller senses the level in a vessel, commanding the secondary (flow) controller to maintain the necessary amount of flow either in or out of the vessel as needed to maintain level at some setpoint.

SAMA diagrams may show varying degrees of detail about the control strategies they document. For example, you may see the auto/manual controls represented as separate entities in a SAMA diagram, apart from the basic PID controller function. In the following example, we see a transfer block (T) and two manual adjustment blocks (A) providing a human operator the ability to separately adjust the controller’s setpoint and output (manipulated) variables, and to transfer between automatic and manual modes:

Rectangular blocks such as the _, P, I, and D shown in this diagram represent automatic functions. Diamond-shaped blocks such as the A and T blocks are manual functions which must be set by a human operator. Showing even more detail, the following SAMA diagram indicates the presence of setpoint tracking in the controller algorithm, a feature that forces the setpoint value to equal the process variable value any time the controller is in manual mode:

Here we see a new type of line: dashed instead of solid. This too has meaning in the world of SAMA diagrams. Solid lines represent analog (continuously variable) signals such as process variable, setpoint, and manipulated variable. Dashed lines represent discrete (on/off) signal paths, in this case the auto/manual state of the controller commanding the PID algorithm to get its setpoint either from the operator’s input (A) or from the process variable input (the flow transmitter: FT).

A SAMA diagram uses various types of enclosure symbols as shown in Table 1 to represent the various elements
or functions of the control system. The enclosure symbols are tied together by the continuation symbols shown in Table 2. Table 3 shows the many signal processing symbols used to describe the functions within each enclosure



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