Similar to product development trends in consumer electronics, such as smartphones, compact ac drives are expanding in intelligence while shrinking in size. Drive-control technologies, like volts-per-hertz control, sensorless vector control, etc., have remained relatively unchanged over the last decade. But advancements in other areas of the device have changed dramatically.
User needs for time savings have driven technological improvements that used to be either offered as expensive options or simply unavailable.
Selecting a compact drive today requires a fresh assessment of standard features. Machine builders and end users who restrict their selection criteria solely to traditional methods of sizing a drive to its motor can miss out on features that speed drive installation, programming, and configuration, add more flexible control and communications, and streamline equipment design and operation. The right ac drive can help maximize system performance, reduce design and delivery times, and improve competitiveness. Machine builders and end users should consider the following criteria when selecting a compact ac drive.
Flexible programming and commissioning
Users can benefit from flexible options to help simplify programming and streamline setup. Seek flexible options that let users configure the compact drive through its built-in human interface module (HIM). Descriptive scrolling text provides explanations of the parameters and codes displayed. Intuitive software with standard connectivity adds user clarity and convenience.
Seek tools that offer timesaving application sets, which are groups of pre-defined parameters for common drive applications that users can apply as is or customize for a machine or application. Tools like that allow users to easily download completed configurations and share with multiple drives, which can greatly speed up commissioning time. Some drives feature free software specifically created to configure drives and program controllers for small machines.
Added energy savings
All drives improve energy use but some new compact drives feature advanced energy-saving technologies, such as “economizer” control modes. By monitoring an application’s current demand and automatically refining operating parameters accordingly, control modes like this further optimize a motor’s energy consumption.
Flexible communication features are improving users’ access to data where and when they need it. Seek compact drives that offer multiple communication options and support for open industrial networks, such as EtherNet/IP, all with no additional hardware to implement. For example, some compact drives now feature embedded EtherNet/IP connectivity to optimize integration with programmable controllers and deliver more application flexibility.
In addition to enabling the convenience of controlling, configuring, and collecting data over an EtherNet/IP network, embedded EtherNet/IP enables timesaving automatic device configuration. In the event of a drive replacement, the controller can automatically download all configuration files to a replaced drive with very little operator intervention.
Dual-port EtherNet/IP-enabled compact drives are compatible with linear and ring Ethernet topologies. The ring topology supports device level redundancy (DLR) function, which gives users fault-tolerant, system resiliency in the event a network connection is lost. DLR technology also helps reduce configuration time and costs by minimizing the number of managed switches and reducing cabling needs, while allowing users to create a single network ring that connects all components at the device level.
Maximizing panel space is critical. Beyond the physical height, width, and depth dimensions of a compact drive, examine compact drives’ heat-related installation requirements. New drive designs minimize necessary clearance on the top and bottom when installed in a cabinet. Further aiding installation flexibility and space savings, some compact drive designs allow machine builders to mount zero-stacked, both horizontally and vertically. This leaves almost no spacing between drives. Smaller clearance means more efficient cabinet use.
For conditions with high ambient temperatures, above 50C, seek compact drives with additional means of cooling. With an optional fan kit, some drives can withstand temperatures up to 70C with current derating.