Dedham, MA--AC drive business in North America continues to provide steady growth for suppliers' automation business while many other businesses are less active. Now opportunities continue to emerge as the North American ac drive business moves beyond the $1 billion plateau. According to Automation Research Corp.'s new AC Drive Outlook for North America, the largest growth will occur in the micro and low-end drive segments as these drives become more of a commodity purchase.
As users become more cognizant of ac drive benefits, the advancement of new ac drive technologies will become the primary factor in demand for growth. While many control companies are making strides toward integrating process control with drive systems, motor suppliers are integrating drives with motors. In an attempt to make the controls and motors more compatible, some motor suppliers have begun physically mounting a low-end drive to the motor chassis, reducing the overall footprint significantly.
The key to this strategy is the development of a new microchip that permits insulated gate bipolar transisters (IGBTs) to offer higher frequency switching at a lower power output. With less heat to worry about, power and logic circuitry can be mounted together to save space. Keeping the interconnecting wiring short also makes for more accurate speed control and contributes to extended motor life. Motor-mounted drive packages offer other advantages to the user including: compact design for tight space application, guaranteed compatibility between the drive and motor, and reduced installation costs.
Sensorless-vector control has emerged as a lower cost alternative to standard, closed-loop vector control drives and as a more advanced control option from volts-per-hertz drives. Sensorless vector, or open-loop vector, control is intended to give the user results similar to dc drives, while also making traditional speed or shaft position feedback from the motor unnecessary. Sensorless vector removes a major source of complexity and potential for failure, while simplifying many ac drive installations. Consequently, ac drives are finding a broader range of applications where these products can be implemented.
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For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.