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Instrumentation Technology Courses and Classes Overview

An instrumentation technology program is designed for entry-level technicians, as well as for those working in instrumentation maintenance and instrumentation sales positions. Courses in instrumentation technology are normally taken through a full undergraduate program.

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Essential Information

Instrumentation technology programs can train students to work in chemical plants, electrical power plants, oil refineries and cross-country pipeline companies. These programs are most often found at two-year institutions and lead to either a certificate or an associate's degree.

The coursework for an instrumentation technology program involves laboratory practice in addition to lectures. Students learn about instrumentation principles, including the calibration, testing and operation of such equipment. They learn about different types of automatic control systems and programmable logic controllers. Hands-on training shows students how to install, configure and maintain equipment. Cooperative education is also required for some instrumentation technology programs.

Overview of Courses

Several common instrumentation technology classes are described in detail below.

Industrial Measurements and Principles of Instrumentation

In this course, often taken at the beginning of an instrumentation technology program, students learn the techniques of measuring temperature, pressure, level and flow through both lectures and labs. Topics related to temperature include thermistors, filled thermal systems, thermocouples and the resistance temperature detector. Students are introduced to terminology and basic concepts of process control systems. They learn how to operate equipment, test set-up and calibrate machinery. They also study P&ID diagrams, loop sheets and the requirements for documentation.

System Troubleshooting

This course covers the techniques of troubleshooting in a conceptual and complicated instrumented environment. Students are introduced to troubleshooting situations in chemical processes through lab exercises. Simulations include examples of input or output problems; students use logical analysis when problem solving. Troubleshooting courses are often taken towards the middle or end of an instrumentation technology program.

Principles of Automatic Control

Taken toward the beginning of an instrumentation technology program with a possible prerequisite in industrial equipment, this course familiarizes student with automatic control systems and design, control modes, control loop configurations, control loop analysis and controller tuning. By the end of this course, students should comprehend the operation of control loops (input, decision and action) and all the equipment involved in different processes. Simulation will be used to reiterate learning objectives.

Unit Operations

This course acquaints students with basic processes used in various plants and industries, including fluid power systems, material movement, distillation and extraction. Students receive instruction in different pipe systems, cooling towers, refrigeration, agitators and the distribution of utilities. Students will be able to keep records, provide routine and preventive maintenance and adjust control equipment. This course is entry level but may have one or two prerequisites.

Programmable Logic and Distributed Control Systems

This course teaches students the basic concepts of programmable logic controllers, techniques of operation and numbering systems. Students learn how to configure, build, operate and install hardware, firmware and software. The course includes the exploration of communications and networking systems, modes of operation, troubleshooting and maintenance for distributed controls. Students learn how measurement, data analysis and control data acquisition are used for resource planning and management. This course is taken toward the beginning or middle of an instrumentation technology program.

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