In automatic control
, a regulator
is a device which has the function of maintaining a designated characteristic. It performs the activity of managing or maintaining a range of values in a machine. The measurable property of a device is managed closely by specified conditions or an advance set value; or it can be a variable according to a predetermined arrangement scheme. It can be used generally to connote any set of various controls or devices for regulating or controlling items or objects.
Examples are a voltage regulator (which can be a transformer whose voltage ratio of transformation can be adjusted, or an electronic circuit that produces a defined voltage), a gas regulator, such as a diving regulator, which maintains its output at a fixed pressure lower than its input, and a fuel regulator (which controls the supply of fuel).
Regulators can be designed to control anything from gasses or fluids, to light or electricity. Speed can be regulated by; electronic, mechanical, or electro-mechanical means. Such instances include;
- Electronic regulators as used in model railway sets where the voltage is raised or lowered to control the speed of the engine
- Mechanical systems such as valves as used in fluid control systems. Purely mechanical pre-automotive systems included such designs as the Watt centrifugal governor whereas modern systems may have electronic fluid speed sensing components directing solenoids to set the valve to the desired rate.
- Complex electro-mechanical speed control systems used to maintain speeds in modern cars (cruise control) - often including hydraulic components,
- An aircraft engine's constant speed unit changes the propellor pitch to maintain engine speed.