Machine and Process Management

How to Build More Efficient Machines with Variable Speed Drives

For many OEMs, machine design and performance efficiency improvements have emerged as critical success factors for maintaining competitiveness. In order to provide end customers with the machine productivity levels they demand, OEM-built machines have to incorporate motor control automation technologies optimized for rapid time-to-market, operational efficiency and simplification as well as increased machine uptime.

Motor control devices such as the new generation of variable speed drives (VSDs) built by industry-leading companies like Schneider Electric, play a pivotal role in driving efficiencies both at the OEM development level and on the end user shop floor. In fact, deployment of modern VSD technologies can boost overall design, installation, and operational efficiency by up to 30%.

Identifying the greatest potential for efficiency gains

Below are three areas where VSDs serve as a great example of how OEMs can drive up overall design, implementation and performance efficiencies:

  • Energy efficiency – Traditional oversizing has led to a situation where machines consume more energy than necessary. Rightsizing without increasing the risk of compromised performance can now be executed through proper design. For example, in pump motor control applications, an oversized pumping system combined with permanent flow reduction via throttle is not energy efficient. If flow is highly variable or requires precision accuracy, a variable speed drive provides an efficient, active solution as it adapts the speed of the motor to the desired flow.

For applications with variable loads, the use of variable speed drives can bring immediate benefits and up to 50% in energy savings (pumps, ventilation fans, and compressors are obvious applications). At the same time, for any application that requires repetitive starting, the choice of speed drives over conventional contactors limits starting current and therefore reduces losses and load peaks. The instant benefits for end users, such as cost savings in their electrical bill, can be highlighted by a payback of less than one or two years (depending on the application and use case).

Customers who have tested both Schneider Electric and competitors’ products find, on average, that Schneider Electric Altivar ATV320 VSDs save up to 10 percent more energy than a typical VSD. The distinguishing factor is that the drives are tuned to optimize the integrated “energy saving motor control law” by providing just enough current to properly flux and control the motor.

  • Ease of integration and commissioning – The unique ATV320 form factors and IP ratings allow machine builders to optimize physical machine design and to reduce their machine footprint. ATV320 offers versatile form factors (book/compact format) that fit into practically any machine layout. In addition, the new IP66 design allows for decentralized mounting possibilities when it is not possible to place the drive within a cabinet or within a machine.

Embedded programmable logic functions of the ATV320, called “Altivar Logic”, help OEMs to modify and customize functions without having to modify the PLC program. No extra equipment needs to be ordered to make it all work. The programming ability provides the design flexibility needed to optimize machine integration time.  The standardized machine program can also be used to perform any necessary customization.

For OEMs simplicity plays a huge role when it comes to running an efficient commissioning process. A device such as a variable speed drive is considered a complex product. But, as opposed to most VSDs available in the marketplace today, the Schneider Electric Altivar Machine ATV320 is simple to configure and commission. The management interface software is intuitive and easy to understand. The staff engineer simply scrolls through and quickly identifies which parameters to set. This results in significant commissioning time reduction.

  • Increased operation and service efficiency – VSDs can act as “smart” sensors and collect data on all of the key parameters affecting the driveline lifetime (such as operating time, temperatures, torque, main voltage, current, motor overload, and more). Through such monitoring, the VSD can help to compute future outcomes for those chain elements that are predictable. Also, if threshold parameters are exceeded, the VSD and can generate alarms, warnings or even cease operation in order to avoid or diminish any instances of unexpected downtime.

VSDs can also leverage commissioning tools to contribute data to high-level of service dashboards. In addition, asset specific documentation access is instant. With easy access to automatically generated early field service reports, documentation history is complete and recorded beginning on Day 1. This greatly simplifies any future maintenance work.

VSDs are just one example of the many ways OEMs can drive design, installation, commissioning and operation efficiencies of motor starter solutions. For a more comprehensive review of how efficient OEM tools can drive end user plant productivity, download Schneider Electric’s new e-guide “A Machine Builder’s Guide to Improved Motor Control Performance.”


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