VS-E - Practical Variable Speed Drives for Instrumentation and Control Systems
This manual details the typical practical applications of VSDs in process control and materials handling, such as those for pumping, ventilation, conveyers, compressors and hoists. The manual also covers the basic setup of parameters, control wiring and safety precautions in installing a VSD. The various drive features such as operating modes, braking types, automatic restart and many others are discussed in detail.
The four basic requirements for a VSD to function properly with emphasis on typical controller faults, their causes and how they can be repaired are also discussed.
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An Introduction to Practical Variable Speed Drives for Instrumentation and Control Systems
1.1 The need for variable speed drives
There are many and diverse reasons for using variable speed drives. Some applications, such as paper making machines, cannot run without them while others, such as centrifugal pumps, can benefit from energy savings.
In general, variable speed drives are used to:
- Match the speed of a drive to the process requirements
- Match the torque of a drive to the process requirements
- Save energy and improve efficiency
The needs for speed and torque control are usually fairly obvious. Modern electrical VSDs can be used to accurately maintain the speed of a driven machine to within ±0.1%, independent of load, compared to the speed regulation possible with a conventional fixed speed squirrel cage induction motor, where the speed can vary by as much as 3% from no load to full load.
The benefits of energy savings are not always fully appreciated by many users. These savings are particularly apparent with centrifugal pumps and fans, where load torque increases as the square of the speed and power consumption as the cube of the speed. Substantial cost savings can be achieved in some applications.
An everyday example, which illustrates the benefits of variable speed control, is the motorcar. It has become such an integral part of our lives that we seldom think about the technology that it represents or that it is simply a variable speed platform. It is used here to illustrate how variable speed drives are used to improve the speed, torque and energy performance of a machine.
It is intuitively obvious that the speed of a motorcar must continuously be controlled by the driver (the operator) to match the traffic conditions on the road (the process). In a city, it is necessary to obey speed limits, avoid collisions and to start, accelerate, decelerate and stop when required. On the open road, the main objective is to get to a destination safely in the shortest time without exceeding the speed limit. The two main controls that are used to control the speed are the accelerator, which controls the driving torque, and the brake, which adjusts the load torque. A motorcar could not be safely operated in city traffic or on the open road without these two controls. The driver must continuously adjust the fuel input to the engine (the drive) to maintain a constant speed in spite of the changes in the load, such as an uphill, downhill or strong wind conditions. On other occasions he may have to use the brake to adjust the load and slow the vehicle down to standstill.
Another important issue for most drivers is the cost of fuel or the cost of energy consumption. The speed is controlled via the accelerator that controls the fuel input to the engine. By adjusting the accelerator position, the energy consumption is kept to a minimum and is matched to the speed and load conditions. Imagine the high fuel consumption of a vehicle using a fixed accelerator setting and controlling the speed by means of the brake position.
1.2 Fundamental principles
The following is a review of some of the fundamental principles associated with variable speed drive applications.
- Forward direction
Forward direction refers to motion in one particular direction, which is chosen by the user or designer as being the forward direction. The Forward direction is designated as being positive (+ve). For example, the forward direction for a motorcar is intuitively obvious from the design of the vehicle. Conveyor belts and pumps also usually have a clearly identifiable forward direction.
- Reverse direction
Reverse direction refers to motion in the opposite direction. The Reverse direction is designated as being negative (–ve). For example, the reverse direction for a motor car is occasionally used for special situations such as parking or un-parking the vehicle.
Motion is the result of applying one or more forces to an object. Motion takes place in the direction in which the resultant force is applied. So force is a combination of both magnitude and direction. A Force can be +ve or –ve depending on the direction in which it is applied. A Force is said to be +ve if it is applied in the forward direction and –ve if it is applied in the reverse direction. In SI units, force is measured in Newtons.
- Linear velocity (v) or speed (n)
Linear velocity is the measure of the linear distance that a moving object covers in a unit of time. It is the result of a linear force being applied to the object. In SI units, this is usually measured in meters per second (m/sec). Kilometers per hour (km/hr) is also a common unit of measurement. For motion in the forward direction, velocity is designated Positive (+ve). For motion in the reverse direction, velocity is designated Negative (–ve).
- Angular velocity (w) or rotational speed (n)
Although a force is directional and results in linear motion, many industrial applications are based on rotary motion. The rotational force associated with rotating equipment is known as torque. Angular velocity is the result of the application of torque and is the angular rotation that a moving object covers in a unit of time. In SI units, this is usually measured in radians per second (rad/sec) or revolutions per second (rev/sec). When working with rotating machines, these units are usually too small for practical use, so it is common to measure rotational speed in revolutions per minute (rev/min).
Torque is the product of the tangential force F, at the circumference of the wheel, and the radius r to the center of the wheel. In SI units, torque is measured in Newton-meters (Nm). A torque can be +ve or –ve depending on the direction in which it is applied. A torque is said to be +ve if it is applied in the forward direction of rotation and –ve if it is applied in the reverse direction of rotation.
Using the motorcar as an example, Figure 1.1 illustrates the relationship between direction, force, torque, linear speed and rotational speed. The petrol engine develops rotational torque and transfers this via the transmission and axles to the driving wheels, which convert torque (T) into a tangential force (F). No horizontal motion would take place unless a resultant force is exerted horizontally along the surface of the road to propel the vehicle in the forward direction. The higher the magnitude of this force, the faster the car accelerates. In this example, the motion is designated as being forward, so torque, speed, acceleration are all +ve.
Torque (Nm) = Tangential Force (N) ´ Radius (m)
The relationship between torque, force and radius
- Linear acceleration (a)
Linear acceleration is the rate of change of linear velocity, usually in m/sec2.
- Linear acceleration is the increase in velocity in either direction
- Linear deceleration or braking is the decrease in velocity in either direction
- Rotational acceleration (a)
Rotational acceleration is the rate of change of rotational velocity, usually in rad/sec2.
- Rotational acceleration is the increase in velocity in either direction
- Rotational deceleration or Braking is the decrease in velocityin either direction
In the example in Figure 1.2, a motorcar sets off from standstill and accelerates in the forward direction up to a velocity of 90 km/hr (25 m/sec) in a period of 10 sec.
In variable speed drive applications, this acceleration time is often called the ramp-up time. After traveling at 90 km/hr for a while, the brakes are applied and the car decelerates down to a velocity of 60 km/hr (16.7 m/sec) in 5 sec. In variable speed drive applications, this deceleration time is often called the ramp-down time.
From the example outlined in Figure 1.3, the acceleration time (ramp-up time) to 20 km/hr in the reverse direction is 5 secs. The braking period (ramp-down time) back to standstill is 2 sec.
(a) Acceleration (b) Deceleration (braking)
Acceleration and deceleration (braking) in the forward direction
(a) Acceleration (b) Deceleration (braking)
Acceleration and deceleration (braking) in the reverse direction
There are some additional terms and formulae that are commonly used in association with variable speed drives and rotational motion:
Power is the rate at which work is being done by a machine. In SI units, it is measured in watts. In practice, power is measured in kiloWatts (kW) or MegaWatts (MW) because watts are such a small unit of measurement.
In rotating machines, power can be calculated as the product of torque and speed. Consequently, when a rotating machine such as a motor car is at standstill, the output power is zero. This does not mean that input power is zero! Even at standstill with the engine running, there are a number of power losses that manifest themselves as heat energy.
Using SI units, power and torque are related by the following very useful formula, which is used extensively in VSD applications:
Energy is the product of power and time and represents the rate at which work is done over a period of time. In SI units it is usually measured as kiloWatt-hours (kWh). In the example of the motorcar, the fuel consumed over a period of time represents the energy consumed.
- Moment of Inertia
Moment of inertia is that property of a rotating object that resists change in rotational speed, either acceleration or deceleration. In SI units, moment of inertia is measured in kgm2.
This means that, to accelerate a rotating object from speed n1 (rev/min) to speed n2 (rev/min), an acceleration torque TA (Nm) must be provided by the prime mover in addition to the mechanical load torque. The time t (sec) required to change from one speed to another will depend on the moment of inertia J (kgm2) of the rotating system, comprising both the drive and the mechanical load. The acceleration torque will be:
In applications where rotational motion is transformed into linear motion, for example on a crane or a conveyor, the rotational speed (n) can be converted to linear velocity (v) using the diameter (d) of the rotating drum as follows:
From the above power, torque and energy formulae, there are four possible combinations of acceleration/braking in either the forward/reverse directions that can be applied to this type of linear motion. Therefore, the following conclusions can be drawn:
- 1st QUADRANT, torque is +ve and speed is +ve.
Power is positive in the sense that energy is transferred from the prime mover (engine) to the mechanical load (wheels).
This is the case of the machine driving in the forward direction.
- 2nd QUADRANT, torque is –ve and speed is +ve.
Power is negative in the sense that energy is transferred from the wheels back to the prime mover (engine). In the case of the motor car, this returned energy is wasted as heat. In some types of electrical drives this energy can be transferred back into the power supply system, called regenerative braking.
This is the case of the machine braking in the forward direction.
- 3rd QUADRANT, torque is –ve and speed is –ve.
Power is positive in the sense that energy is transferred from the prime mover (engine) to the mechanical load (wheels).
This is the case of the machine driving in the reverse direction.
- 4th QUADRANT, If torque is +ve and speed is –ve.
Power is negative in the sense that energy is transferred from the wheels back to the prime mover (engine). As above, in some types of electrical drives this power can be transferred back into the power supply system, called regenerative braking.
This is the case of the machine braking in the reverse direction.
These 4 quadrants are summarized in Figure 1.4.
The four quadrants of the torque-speed diagram for a motor car
1.3 Torque-speed curves for variable speed drives
In most variable speed drive applications torque, power, and speed are the most important parameters. Curves, which plot torque against speed on a graph, are often used to illustrate the performance of the VSD. The speed variable is usually plotted along one axis and the torque variable along the other axis. Sometimes, power is also plotted along the same axis as the torque. Since energy consumption is directly proportional to power, energy depends on the product of torque and speed. For example, in a motorcar, depressing the accelerator produces more torque that provides acceleration and results in more speed, but more energy is required and more fuel is consumed.
Again using the motorcar as an example of a variable speed drive, torque–speed curves can be used to compare two alternative methods of speed control and to illustrate the differences in energy consumption between the two strategies:
- Speed controlled by using drive control: adjusting the torque of the prime mover. In practice, this is done by adjusting the fuel supplied to the engine, using the accelerator for control, without using the brake. This is analogous to using an electric variable speed drive to control the flow of water through a centrifugal pump.
- Speed controlled by using load control: adjusting the overall torque of the load. In practice, this could be done by keeping a fixed accelerator setting and using the brakes for speed control. This is analogous to controlling the water flow through a centrifugal pump by throttling the fluid upstream of the pump to increase the head.
Using the motorcar as an example, the two solid curves in Figure 1.5 represent the drive torque output of the engine over the speed range for two fuel control conditions:
- High fuel position – accelerator full down
- Lower fuel position – accelerator partially down
The two dashed curves in the Figure 1.5 represent the load torque changes over the speed range for two mechanical load conditions. The mechanical load is mainly due to the wind resistance and road friction, with the restraining torque of the brakes added.
- Wind & friction plus brake ON – high load torque
- Wind & friction plus brake OFF – low load torque
Torque–speed curves for a motorcar
As with any drive application, a stable speed is achieved when the drive torque is equal to the load torque, where the drive torque curve intersects with the load torque curve. The following conclusions can be drawn from Figure 1.5 and also from personal experience driving a motor car:
- Fixed accelerator position, if load torque increases (uphill), speed drops
- Fixed accelerator position, if load torque decreases (downhill), speed increases
- Fixed load or brake position, if drive torque increases by increasing the fuel, speed increases (up to a limit)
- Fixed load or brake position, if drive torque decreases by reducing the fuel, speed decreases
As an example, assume that a motorcar is traveling on an open road at a stable speed with the brake off and accelerator partially depressed. The main load is the wind resistance and road friction. The engine torque curve and load torque curve cross at point A, to give a stable speed of 110 km/h. When the car enters the city limits, the driver needs to reduce speed to be within the 60 km/h speed limit. This can be achieved in one of the two ways listed above:
- Fuel input is reduced, speed decreases along the load-torque curve A–B. As the speed falls, the load torque reduces mainly due to the reduction of wind resistance. A new stable speed of 60 km/h is reached at a new intersection of the load–torque curve and the engine–torque curve at point B.
- The brake is applied with a fixed fuel input setting, speed decreases along the drive-torque curve A–C due to the increase in the load torque. A new stable speed is reached when the drive–torque curve intersects with the steeper load– torque curve at 60 km/h.
As mentioned previously, the power is proportional to Torque ´ Speed:
In the motor car example, what is the difference in energy consumption between the two different strategies at the new stable speed of 60 km/h? The drive speed control method is represented by Point B and the brake speed control method is represented by Point C. From above formula, the differences in energy consumption between points B and C are:
EC – EB = k (TC –TB)
The energy saved by using drive control is directly proportional to the difference in the load torque associated with the two strategies. This illustrates how speed control and energy savings can be achieved by using a variable speed drive, such as a petrol engine, in a motorcar. The added advantages of a variable speed drive strategy are the reduced wear on the transmission, brakes and other components.
The same basic principles apply to industrial variable speed drives, where the control of the speed of the prime mover can be used to match the process conditions. The control can be achieved manually by an operator. With the introduction of automation, speed control can be achieved automatically, by using a feedback controller which can be used to maintain a process variable at a preset level. Again referring to the motorcar example, automatic speed control can be achieved using the ‘auto-cruise’ controller to maintain a constant speed on the open road.
Another very common application of VSDs for energy savings is the speed control of a centrifugal pump to control fluid flow. Flow control is necessary in many industrial applications to meet the changing demands of a process. In pumping applications, Q–H curves are commonly used instead of torque–speed curves for selecting suitable pumping characteristics and they have many similarities. Figure 1.6 shows a typical set of Q–H curves. Q represents the flow, usually measured in m3/h and H represents the head, usually measured in meters. These show that when the pressure head increases on a centrifugal pump, the flow decreases and vice versa. In a similar way to the motor car example above, fluid flow through the pump can be controlled either by controlling the speed of the motor driving the pump or alternatively by closing an upstream control valve (throttling). Throttling increases the effective head on the pump that, from the Q–H curve, reduces the flow.
Typical Q–H curves for a centrifugal pump
From Figure 1.6, the reduction of flow from Q2 to Q1 can be achieved by using one of the following two alternative strategies:
- Drive speed control, flow decreases along the curve A–B and to a point on another Q–H curve. As the speed falls, the pressure/head reduces mainly due to the reduction of friction in the pipes. A new stable flow of Q1 m3/h is reached at point B and results in a head of H2.
- Throttle control, an upstream valve is partially closed to restrict the flow. As the pressure/head is increased by the valve, the flow decreases along the curve A–C. The new stable flow of Q1 m3/h is reached at point C and results in a head of H1.
From the well-known pump formula, the power consumed by the pump is:
Pump Power (kW) = k × Flow (m3/h) × Head (m)
Pump Power (kW) = k × Q × H
Absorbed Energy (kWh) = k × Q × H × t
EC – EB = (kQ1H1t) – (kQ1H2t)
EC – EB = kQ1 (H1 – H2)t
EC – EB = K (H1 – H2)
With flow constant at Q1, the energy saved by using drive speed control instead of throttle control is directly proportional to the difference in the head associated with the two strategies. The energy savings are therefore a function of the difference in the head between the point B and point C. The energy savings on large pumps can be quite substantial and these can readily be calculated from the data for the pump used in the application.
There are other advantages in using variable speed control for pump applications:
- Smooth starting, smooth acceleration/deceleration to reduce mechanical wear and water hammer.
- No current surges in the power supply system.
- Energy savings are possible. These are most significant with centrifugal loads such as pumps and fans because power/energy consumption increases/decreases with the cube of the speed.
- Speed can be controlled to match the needs of the application. This means that speed, flow or pressure can be accurately controlled in response to changes in process demand.
- Automatic control of the process variable is possible, for example to maintain a constant flow, constant pressure, etc. The speed control device can be linked to a process control computer such as a PLC or dcS.
1.4 Types of variable speed drives
The most common types of variable speed drives used today are summarized below:
Main types of variable speed drive for industrial applications. (a) Typical mechanical VSD with an AC motor as the prime mover; (b) Typical hydraulic VSD with an AC motor as the prime mover; (c) Typical electromagnetic coupling or Eddy Current coupling; (d) Typical electrical VSD with a DC motor and DC voltage converter; (e) Typical electrical VSD with an AC motor and AC frequency converter; (f) Typical slip energy recovery system or static Kramer system.
Variable speed drives can be classified into three main categories, each with their own advantages and disadvantages:
Mechanical variable speed drives
- Belt and chain drives with adjustable diameter sheaves
- Metallic friction drives
Hydraulic variable speed drives
- Hydrodynamic types
- Hydrostatic types
Electrical variable speed drives
- Schrage motor (AC commutator motor)
- Ward-Leonard system (AC motor – DC generator – DC motor)
- Variable voltage DC converter with DC motor
- Variable voltage variable frequency converter with AC motor
- Slip control with wound rotor induction motor (slipring motor)
- Cycloconverter with AC motor
- Electromagnetic coupling or ‘Eddy Current’ coupling
- Positioning drives (servo and stepper motors)
1.5 Mechanical variable speed drive methods
Historically, electrical VSDs, even DC drives, were complex and expensive and were only used for the most important or difficult applications. So mechanical devices were developed for insertion between a fixed speed electric drive motor and the shaft of the driven machine.
Mechanical variable speed drives are still favored by many engineers (mainly mechanical engineers!) for some applications mainly because of simplicity and low cost.
As listed above, there are basically 2 types of mechanical construction.
1.5.1 Belt and chain drives with adjustable diameter sheaves
The basic concept behind adjustable sheave drives is very similar to the gear changing arrangement used on many modern bicycles. The speed is varied by adjusting the ratio of the diameter of the drive pulley to the driven pulley.
For industrial applications, an example of a continuously adjustable ratio between the drive shaft and the driven shaft is shown in Figure 1.8. One or both pulleys can have an adjustable diameter. As the diameter of one pulley increases, the other decreases thus maintaining a nearly constant belt length. Using a V-type drive belt, this can be done by adjusting the distance between the tapered sheaves at the drive end, with the sheaves at the other end being spring loaded. A hand-wheel can be provided for manual control or a servo-motor can be fitted to drive the speed control screw for remote or automatic control. Ratios of between 2:1 and 6:1 are common, with some low power units capable of up to 16:1. When used with gear reducers, an extensive range of output speeds and gear ratios are possible. This type of drive usually comes as a totally enclosed modular unit with an AC motor fitted. On the chain version of this VSD, the chain is usually in the form of a wedge type roller chain, which can transfer power between the chain and the smooth surfaces of the tapered sheaves.
Adjustable sheave belt-type mechanical VSD
The mechanical efficiency of this type of VSD is typically about 90% at maximum load. They are often used for machine tool or material handling applications. However, they are increasingly being superseded by small single phase AC or DC variable speed drives.
1.5.2 Metallic friction drives
Another type of mechanical drive is the metallic friction VSD unit, which can transmit power through the friction at the point of contact between two shaped or tapered wheels. Speed is adjusted by moving the line of contact relative to the rotation centers. Friction between the parts determines the transmission power and depends on the force at the contact point.
The most common type of friction VSD uses two rotating steel balls, where the speed is adjusted by tilting the axes of the balls. These can achieve quite high capacities of up to 100 kW and they have excellent speed repeatability. Speed ratios of 5:1 up to 25:1 are common.
To extend the life of the wearing parts, friction drives require a special lubricant that hardens under pressure. This reduces metal-to-metal contact, as the hardened lubricant is used to transmit the torque from one rotating part to the other.
1.6 Hydraulic variable speed drive methods
Hydraulic VSDs are often favored for conveyor drive applications because of the inherently soft-start capability of the hydraulic unit. They are also frequently used in all types of transportation and earthmoving equipment because of their inherently high starting torque. Both of the two common types work on the same basic principle where the prime mover, such as a fixed speed electric motor or a diesel/petrol engine, drives a hydraulic pump to transfer fluid to a hydraulic motor. The output speed can be adjusted by controlling the fluid flow rate or pressure. The two different types outlined below are characterized by the method employed to achieve the speed control.
1.6.1 Hydrodynamic types
Hydrodynamic variable speed couplings, often referred to as fluid couplings, are commonly used on conveyors. This type of coupling uses movable scoop tubes to adjust the amount of hydraulic fluid in the vortex between an impeller and a runner. Since the output is only connected to the input by the fluid, without direct mechanical connection, there is a slip of about 2% to 4%. Although this slip reduces efficiency, it provides good shock protection or soft-start characteristic to the driven equipment. The torque converters in the automatic transmissions of motor cars are hydrodynamic fluid couplings.
The output speed can be controlled by the amount of oil being removed by the scoop tube, which can be controlled by manual or automatic control systems. Operating speed ranges of up to 8:1 are common. A constant speed pump provides oil to the rotating elements.
1.6.2 Hydrostatic type
This type of hydraulic VSD is most commonly used in mobile equipment such as transportation, earthmoving and mining machinery. A hydraulic pump is driven by the prime mover, usually at a fixed speed, and transfers the hydraulic fluid to a hydraulic motor. The hydraulic pump and motor are usually housed in the same casing that allows closed circuit circulation of the hydraulic fluid from the pump to the motor and back.
The speed of the hydraulic motor is directly proportional to the rate of flow of the fluid and the displacement of the hydraulic motor. Consequently, variable speed control is based on the control of both fluid flow and adjustment of the pump and/or motor displacement. Practical drives of this type are capable of a very wide speed range, steplessly adjustable from zero to full synchronous speed.
The main advantages of hydrostatics VSDs, which make them ideal for earthmoving and mining equipment, are:
- High torque available at low speed
- High power-to-weight ratio
- The drive unit is not damaged even if it stalls at full load
- Hydrostatics VSDs are normally bi-directional
Output speed can be varied smoothly from about 40 rev/min to 1450 rev/min up to a power rating of about 25 kW. Speed adjustment can be done manually from a hand-wheel or remotely using a servo-motor. The main disadvantage is the poor speed holding capability. Speed may drop by up to 35 rev/min between 0% and 100% load.
Hydrostatic VSDs fall into four categories, depending on the types of pumps and motors.
- Fixed displacement pump – fixed displacement motor
The displacement volume of both the pump and the motor is not adjustable. The output speed and power are controlled by adjusting a flow control valve located between the hydraulic pump and motor. This is the cheapest solution, but efficiency is low, particularly at low speeds. So these are applied only where small speed variations are required.
- Variable displacement pump – fixed displacement motor
The output speed is adjusted by controlling the pump displacement. Output torque is roughly constant relative to speed if pressure is constant. Thus power is proportional to speed. Typical applications include winches, hoists, printing machinery, machine tools and process machinery.
- Fixed displacement pump – variable displacement motor
The output speed is adjusted by controlling the motor displacement. Output torque is inversely proportional to speed, giving a relatively constant power characteristic. This type of characteristic is suitable for machinery such as rewinders.
- Variable displacement pump – variable displacement motor
The output speed is adjusted by controlling the displacement of the pump, motor or both. Output torque and power are both controllable across the entire speed range in both directions.
1.7 Electromagnetic or ‘Eddy Current’ coupling
The electromagnetic or ‘Eddy Current’ coupling is one of the oldest and simplest of the electrically controlled variable speed drives and has been used in industrial applications for over 50 years. In a similar arrangement to hydraulic couplings, eddy current couplings are usually mounted directly onto the flange of a standard squirrel cage induction motor between the motor and the driven load as shown in Figure 1.9.
Eddy current coupling mounted onto SCIM
Using the principles of electromagnetic induction, torque is transferred from a rotating drum, mounted onto the shaft of a fixed speed electric motor, across the air gap to an output drum and shaft, which is coupled to the driven load. The speed of the output shaft depends on the slip between the input and output drums, which is controlled by the magnetic field strength. The field winding is supplied with DC from a separate variable voltage source, which was traditionally a variac but is now usually a small single-phase thyristor converter.
There are several slightly different configurations using the electromagnetic induction principle, but the most common two constructions are shown in Figure 1.10. It comprises a cylindrical input drum and a cylindrical output drum with a small air gap between them. The output drum, which is connected to the output shaft, is capable of rotating freely relative to the input drum. A primary electromagnetic field is provided by a set of field coils that are connected to an external supply.
In configuration Figure 1.10(a), the field coils are mounted directly onto the rotating output drum, which then requires sliprings to transfer the excitation current to the field coils. On larger couplings, this arrangement can be difficult to implement and also sliprings create additional maintenance problems. In configuration Figure 1.10(b), the field coils are supported on the frame with the output drum closely surrounding it. This configuration avoids the use of sliprings.
Cross section of the eddy current couplings. (a) Field coils mounted onto the output drum; (b) Field coils mounted onto the fixed frame.
The operating principle is based on the following:
- When a conducting material moves through the flux lines of a magnetic field, eddy currents are induced in the surface of the material, which flow in circular paths.
- The magnitude of the eddy currents is determined by the primary flux density and the rate at which the rotating part cuts these primary flux lines, i.e. the magnitude of the eddy currents depends on the magnetic field strength and the relative speed between the input and output shafts.
- These eddy currents collectively establish their own magnetic field which interacts with the primary magnetic flux in such a way as to resist the relative motion between them, thus providing a magnetic coupling between input and output drums.
- Consequently, torque can be transferred from a fixed speed prime mover to the output shaft, with some slip between them.
- The output torque and the slip are dependent on the strength of the electromagnetic field, which can be controlled from an external voltage source.
In the practical implementation, the input and output drums are made from a ferromagnetic material, such as iron, with a small air gap between them to minimize the leakage flux. The field coils, usually made of insulated copper windings, are mounted on the static part of the frame and are connected to a DC voltage source via a terminal box on the frame. Variable speed is obtained by controlling the field excitation current, by adjusting the voltage output of a small power electronic converter and control circuit. Speed adjustments can be made either manually from a potentiometer or remotely via a 4–20 mA control loop. An important feature of the eddy current coupling is the very low power rating of the field controller, which is typically 2% of the rated drive power.
When this type of drive is started by switching on the AC motor, the motor quickly accelerates to its full speed. With no voltage applied to the field coils, there are no lines of flux and no coupling, so the output shaft will initially be stationary. When an excitation current is applied to the field coils, the resulting lines of flux cut the rotating input drum at the maximum rate and produce the maximum eddy current effect for that field strength.
Torque–speed curves for the eddy current coupling
The interaction between the primary flux and the secondary field produced by the eddy currents establishes an output torque, which accelerates the output shaft and the driven load. As the output drum accelerates, the relative speed between the two drums decreases and reduces the rate at which the lines of flux cut the rotating drum. The magnitude of the Eddy Currents and secondary magnetic field falls and, consequently, reduces the torque between them.
With a constant field excitation current, the output shaft will accelerate until the output torque comes into equilibrium with that of the driven machine. The output speed can be increased (reduce the slip) by increasing the field excitation current to increase the primary magnetic field strength. The output speed can be reduced (increase slip) by reducing the field excitation current.
To transfer torque through the interaction of two magnetic fields, eddy currents must exist to set up the secondary magnetic field. Consequently, there must always be a difference in speed, called the slip, between the input drum and the output drum. This behavior is very similar to that of the AC squirrel cage induction motor (SCIM) and indeed the same principles apply. The eddy current coupling produces a torque–speed curve quite similar to a SCIM as shown in Figure 1.11.
Theoretically, the eddy current coupling should be able to provide a full range of output speeds and torques from zero up to just below the rated speed and torque of the motor, allowing of course for slip. In practice, this is limited by the amount of torque that can be transferred continuously through the coupling without generating excessive heat.
When stability is reached between the motor and the driven load connected by an Eddy Current coupling, the output torque on the shaft is equal to the input torque from the AC motor. However, the speeds of the input and output shafts will be different due to the slip. Since power is a product of torque and speed, the difference between the input and output power, the losses, appears as heat in the coupling. These losses are dissipated through cooling fins on the rotating drums.
These losses may be calculated as follows:
The worst case occurs at starting, with the full rated torque of the motor applied to the driven load at zero output speed, the losses in the coupling are the full rated power of the motor. Because of the difficulty of dissipating this amount of energy, in practice it is necessary to limit the continuous torque at low speeds.
Alternatively, some additional cooling may be necessary for the coupling, but this results in additional capital costs and low energy efficiency. In these cases, other types of VSDs may be more suitable. Consequently, an eddy current coupling is most suited to those types of driven load, which have a low torque at low speed, such as centrifugal pumps and fans. The practical loadability of the eddy current coupling is shown in the figure below.
Loadability of the eddy current coupling
A major drawback of the eddy current coupling is its poor dynamic response. Its ability to respond to step changes in the load or the speed setpoint depends on the time constants associated with the highly inductive field coil, the eddy currents in the ferro-magnetic drums and the type of control system used. The field coil time constant is the most significant factor and there is very little that can be done to improve it, except possibly to use a larger coupling. Closed loop speed control with tachometer feedback can also be used to improve its performance. But there are many applications where the dynamic response or output speed accuracy are not important issues and the eddy current coupling has been proven to be a cost effective and reliable solution for these applications.
1.8 Electrical variable speed drive methods
In contrast to the mechanical and hydraulic variable speed control methods, electrical variable speed drives are those in which the speed of the electric motor itself, rather than an intermediary device, is controlled. Variable speed drives that control the speed of DC motors are loosely called DC variable speed drives or simply DC drives and those that control the speed of AC motors are called AC variable speed drives or simply AC drives. Almost all electrical VSDs are designed for operation from the standard 3-phase AC power supply system.
Historically, two of the best known electrical VSDs were the schrage motor and the Ward-Leonard system. Although these were both designed for operation from a 3-phase AC power supply system, the former is an AC commutator motor while the latter uses a DC generator and motor to effect speed control.
1.8.1 AC commutator motor – schrage motor
The schrage motor is an AC commutator motor having its primary winding on the rotor. The speed was changed by controlling the position of the movable brushes by means of a hand-wheel or a servo-motor. Although it was very popular in its time, this type of motor is now too expensive to manufacture and maintain and is now seldom used.
1.8.2 Ward-Leonard system
The Ward-Leonard system comprises a fixed speed 3-phase AC induction motor driving a separately excited DC generator that, in turn, feeds a variable voltage to a shunt wound DC motor. So this is essentially a DC variable speed drive.
The Ward-Leonard system
DC drives have been used for variable speed applications for many decades and historically were the first choice for speed control applications requiring accurate speed control, controllable torque, reliability and simplicity. The basic principle of a DC variable speed drive is that the speed of a separately excited DC motor is directly proportional to the voltage applied to the armature of the DC motor. The main changes over the years have been concerned with the different methods of generating the variable DC voltage from the 3-phase AC supply.
In the case of the Ward-Leonard system, the output voltage of the DC generator, which is adjusted by controlling the field voltage, is used to control the speed of the DC motor as shown in Figure 1.13. This type of variable speed drive had good speed and torque characteristics and could achieve a speed range of 25:1. It was commonly used for winder drives where torque control was important. It is no longer commonly used because of the high cost of the 3 separate rotating machines. In addition, the system requires considerable maintenance to keep the brushes and commutators of the two DC machines in good condition.
In modern DC drives, the motor-generator set has been replaced by a thyristor converter. The output DC voltage is controlled by adjusting the firing angle of the thyristors connected in a bridge configuration connected directly to the AC power supply.
1.8.3 Electrical variable speed drives for DC motors (DC drives)
Since the 1970s, the controlled DC voltage required for DC motor speed control has been more easily produced from the 3-phase AC supply using a static power electronic AC/DC converter, or sometimes called a controlled rectifier. Because of its low cost and low maintenance, this type of system has completely superseded the Ward-Leonard system. There are several different configurations of the AC/DC converter, which may contain a full-wave 12-pulse bridge, a full-wave 6-pulse bridge or a half-wave 3-pulse bridge. On larger DC drive systems, 12-pulse bridges are often used.
The most common type of AC/DC converter, which meets the steady state and dynamic performance requirements of most VSD applications, comprises a 6-pulse thyristor bridge, electronic control circuit and a DC motor as shown Figure 1.14. The 6-pulse bridge produces less distortion on the DC side than the 3-pulse bridge and also results in lower losses in the DC motor. On larger DC drive systems, 12-pulse bridges are often used to reduce the harmonics in the AC power supply system.
The efficiency of an AC/DC converter is high, usually in excess of 98%. The overall efficiency of the DC drive, including the motor, is lower and is typically about 90% at full load depending on the size of the motor. The design and performance of power electronic converters is described in detail in Chapter 3.
Basic construction of a 6-pulse DC variable speed drive
AC/DC converters of this type are relatively simple and robust and can be built for VSDs of up to several megaWatts with good control and performance characteristics. Since the DC motor is relatively complex and expensive, the main disadvantage of this type of VSD in comparison to an AC VSD, is the reliability of the DC motor. Although the maintenance requirements of a DC motor are inherently higher than an AC induction motor, provided that the correct brush grade is used for the speed and current rating, the life of the commutator and brushgear can be quite long and maintenance minimal.
The fundamental principles of a DC variable speed drive, with a shunt wound DC motor, are relatively easy to understand and are covered by a few simple equations as follows:
- The armature voltage VAis the sum of the internal armature EMF VE and the volt drop due to the armature current IA flow through the armature resistance RA.
- The DC motor speed is directly proportional to the armature back EMF VEand indirectly proportional to the field flux F, which in turn depends on the field excitation current IE. Thus, the rotational speed of the motor can be controlled by adjusting either the armature voltage, which controls VE, or the field current, which controls the F.
- The output torque Tof the motor is proportional to the product of the armature current and the field flux.
- The direction of the torque and direction of rotation of the DC motor can be reversed either by changing the polarity of F, called field reversal, or by changing the polarity of IA, called armature current reversal. These can be achieved by reversing the supply voltage connections to the field or to the armature.
- The output power of the motor is proportional to the product of torque and speed.
From these equations, the following can be deduced about a DC motor drive:
- The speed of a DC motor can be controlled by adjusting either the armature voltage or the field flux or both. Usually the field flux is kept constant, so the motor speed is increased by increasing the armature voltage.
- When the armature voltage VAhas reached the maximum output of the converter, additional increases in speed can be achieved by reducing the field flux. This is known as the field weakening In the field weakening range, the speed range is usually limited to about 3:1, mainly to ensure stability and continued good commutation.
- The motor is able to develop its full torque over the normal speed range. Since torque is not dependent on VA, the full-load torque output is possible over the normal speed range, even at standstill (zero speed).
- The output power is zero at zero speed. In the normal speed range and at constant torque, the output power increases in proportion to the speed.
- In the field weakening range, the motor torque falls in proportion to the speed. Consequently, the output power of the DC motor remains constant.
Torque and power of a DC drive over the speed range
Although a DC machine is well suited for adjustable speed drive applications, there are some limitations due to the mechanical commutator and brushes, which:
- Impose restrictions on the ambient conditions, such as temperature and humidity
- Are subject to wear and require periodic maintenance
- Limit the maximum power and speed of machines that can be built
1.8.4 Electrical variable speed drives for AC motors (AC drives)
One of the lingering problems with thyristor controlled DC drives is the high maintenance requirement of the DC motor. Since the 1980s, the popularity of AC variable speed drives has grown rapidly, mainly due to advances in power electronics and digital control technology affecting both the cost and performance of this type of VSD. The main attraction of the AC VSDs is the rugged reliability and low cost of the squirrel cage AC induction motor compared to the DC motor.
In the AC VSD, the mechanical commutation system of the DC motor, has been replaced by a power electronic circuit called the inverter. However, the main difficulty with the AC variable speed drive has always been the complexity, cost and reliability of the AC frequency inverter circuit.
The development path from the Ward-Leonard system to the thyristor controlled DC drive and then to the PWM-type AC variable voltage variable frequency converter is illustrated in Figure 1.16. In the first step from (a) to (b), the high cost motor-generator set has been replaced with a phase-controlled thyristor rectifier.
In the second step from (b) to (d), the high cost DC motor has been replaced with a power electronic PWM inverter and a simple rugged AC induction motor. Also, the rectifier is usually a simple diode rectifier.
Frequency control, as a method of changing the speed of AC motors, has been a well known technique for decades, but it has only recently become a technically viable and economical method of variable speed drive control. In the past, DC motors were used in most variable speed drive applications in spite of the complexity, high cost and high maintenance requirements of the DC motors. Even today, DC drives are still often used for the more demanding variable speed drive applications. Examples of this are the sectional drives for paper machines, which require fast dynamic response and separate control of speed and torque.
Developments in power electronics over the last 10 to 15 years has made it possible to control not only the speed of AC induction motors but also the torque. Modern AC variable speed drives, with flux-vector control, can now meet all the performance requirements of even the most demanding applications.
In comparison to DC drives, AC drives have become a more cost effective method of speed control for most variable speed drive applications up to 1000 kW. It is also the technically preferred solution for many industrial environments where reliability and low maintenance associated with the AC squirrel cage induction motor are important.
Main components of various types of variable speed drive. (a) Ward-Leonard system; (b) Thyristor controlled DC drive; (c) Voltage source inverter (PAM) AC drive; (d) PWM voltage source (PWM) AC drive
The fundamental principles of an AC variable speed drive are relatively easy to understand and are covered by a few simple equations as follows:
- The speed (n) of the motor can be controlled either by adjusting the supply frequency (f) or the number of poles (p). In an AC induction motor, the synchronous speed, which is the speed at which the stator field rotates, is governed by the simple formula:
Although there are special designs of induction motors, whose speed can be changed in one or more steps by changing the number of poles, it is impractical to continuously vary the number of poles to effect smooth speed control. Consequently, the fundamental principle of modern AC variable speed drives is that the speed of a fixed pole AC induction motor is proportional to the frequency of the AC voltage connected to it.
In practice, the actual speed of the rotor shaft is slower than the synchronous speed of the rotating stator field, due to the slip between the stator field and the rotor. This is covered in detail in Chapter 2.
Actual speed n= (ns –slip) rev/min
The slip between the synchronous rotating field and the rotor depends on a number of factors, being the stator voltage, the rotor current and the mechanical load on the shaft. Consequently, the speed of an AC induction motor can also be adjusted by controlling the slip of the rotor relative to the stator field. Slip control is discussed in Section 1.8.5.
Unlike a shunt wound DC motor, the stator field flux in an induction motor is also derived from the supply voltage and the flux density in the air gap will be affected by changes in the frequency of the supply voltage. The air-gap flux (F) of an AC induction motor is directly proportional to the magnitude of the supply voltage (V) and inversely proportional to the frequency (f).
To maintain a constant field flux density in the metal parts during speed control, the stator voltage must be adjusted in proportion to the frequency. If not and the flux density is allowed to rise too high, saturation of the iron parts of the motor will result in high excitation currents, which will cause excessive losses and heating. If the flux density is allowed to fall too low, the output torque will drop and affect the performance of the AC Drive. Air-gap flux density is dependent on both the frequency and the magnitude of the supply voltage.
So the speed control of AC motors is complicated by the fact that both voltage and frequency need to be controlled simultaneously, hence the name variable voltage, variable frequency (VVVF) converter.
- In a similar way to the DC motor, the output torque of the AC motor depends on the product of the air-gap flux density and the rotor current IR. So, to maintain constant motor output torque, the flux density must be kept constant which means that the ratio V/f must be kept constant.
- The direction of rotation of the AC motor can be reversed by changing the firing sequence power electronic valves of the inverter stage. This is simply done through the electronic control circuit.
- Output power of the AC motor is proportional to the product of torque and speed.
The basic construction of a modern AC frequency converter is shown in Figure 1.17.
Main components of a typical PWM-type AC drive
The mains AC supply voltage is converted into a DC voltage and current through a rectifier. The DC voltage and current are filtered to smooth out the peaks before being fed into an inverter, where they are converted into a variable AC voltage and frequency. The output voltage is controlled so that the ratio between voltage and frequency remains constant to avoid over-fluxing the motor. The AC motor is able to provide its rated torque over the speed range up to 50 Hz without a significant increase in losses.
The motor can be run at speeds above rated frequency, but with reduced output torque. Torque is reduced as a result of the reduction in the air-gap flux, which depends on the V/f ratio. The locus of the induction motor torque–speed curves are at various frequencies are shown in the figure below. At frequencies below 50 Hz, a constant torque output from the motor is possible. At frequencies above the base frequency of 50 Hz, torque is reduced in proportion to the reduction in speed.
Locus of the motor torque-speed curves at various frequencies
One of the main advantages of this VVVF speed control system is that, whilst the controls are necessarily complex, the motors themselves can be of squirrel cage construction, which is probably the most robust, and maintenance free form of electric motor yet devised. This is particularly useful where the motors are mounted in hazardous locations or in an inaccessible position, making routine cleaning and maintenance difficult. Where a machine needs to be built into a flameproof, or even waterproof enclosure, this can be done more cheaply with a squirrel cage AC induction motor than for a DC motor.
On the other hand, an additional problem with standard AC squirrel cage motors, when used for variable speed applications, is that they are cooled by means of a shaft mounted fan. At low speeds, cooling is reduced, which affects the loadability of the drive. The continuous output torque of the drive must be derated for lower speeds, unless a separately powered auxiliary fan is used to cool the motor. This is similar to the cooling requirements of DC motors, which require a separately powered auxiliary cooling fan.
From the equations above, the following deductions can be made about an AC drive:
- The speed of an AC induction motor can be controlled by adjusting the frequency and magnitude of the stator voltage. Motor speed is proportional to frequency, but the voltage must be simultaneously adjusted to avoid over-fluxing the motor.
- The AC motor is able to develop its full torque over the normal speed range, provided that the flux is held constant, (V/fratio kept constant). A standard AC motor reaches its rated speed, when the frequency has been increased to rated frequency (50 Hz) and stator voltage V has reached its rated magnitude.
- The speed of an AC induction motor can be increased above its nominal 50 Hz rating, but the V/fratio will fall because the stator voltage cannot be increased any further. This results in a fall of the air-gap flux and a reduction in output torque. As with the DC motor, this is known as the field weakening The performance of the AC motor in the field weakening range is similar to that of the DC motor and is characterized by constant power, reduced torque.
- The output power is zero at zero speed. In the normal speed range and at constant torque, the output power increases in proportion to the speed.
- In the field weakening range, the motor torque falls in proportion to the speed and the output power of the AC motor remains constant.
Torque and power of an AC drive over the speed range
1.8.5 Slip control AC variable speed drives
When an AC induction motor is started direct-on-line (DOL), the electrical power supply system experiences a current surge which can be anywhere between 4 to 10 times the rated current of the motor. The level of inrush current depends on the design of the motor and is independent of the mechanical load connected to the motor. A standard squirrel cage induction motor has an inrush current typically of 6 times the rated current of the motor. The starting torque, associated with the inrush current, is typically between 1.5 to 2.5 times the rated torque of the motor. When the rotor is stationary, the slip is 100% and the speed is zero. As the motor accelerates, the slip decreases and the speed eventually stabilizes at the point where the motor output torque equals the mechanical load torque, as illustrated in Figures 1.20 and 1.22.
The basic design of a squirrel cage induction motor (SCIM) and a wound rotor induction motor (WRIM) are very similar, the main difference being the design and construction of the rotor. The design and performance of AC induction motors is described in considerable detail in Chapter 2: 3-Phase AC induction motors. In AC induction motors, the slip between the synchronous rotating stator field and the rotor is mainly dependent on the following two factors, either of which can be used to control the motor speed:
- Stator voltage:Affects both the flux and the rotor current.
- Rotor current:For a SCIM, this depends on the rotor design.
For a WRIM, this depends on the external rotor connections
Stator voltage control
The reduction of the AC supply voltage to an induction motor has the effect of reducing both the air-gap flux (F) and the rotor current (IR). The output torque of the motor behaves in accordance with the following formula:
Since both F and IR decrease with the voltage, the output torque of the motor falls roughly as the square of the voltage reduction. So when voltage is reduced, torque decreases, slip increases and speed decreases. The characteristic curves in Figure 1.20 show the relationship between torque and speed for various values of the supply voltage.
Torque–speed curves of an induction