By Ilpo Ruohonen, Mika Paakkonen and Mikko S. Koskinen, ABB Drives
ZURICH, SWITZERLAND – ABB offers one of the world‚â€™s largest portfolios of AC drives, serving an expanding horizon of applications. With increasing demands for flexibility, reliability and ease of use, ABB has come up with a number of solutions to make life simpler and cheaper for its customers.
ABB has reduced the size of its drives while enhancing their reliability. The company has also developed a simplified set-up procedure using a harmonized keypad and software wizards that can be used across the ABB drive family. More complex programming can be carried out using ABB‚â€™s Adaptive Programming utility and parameters can be transferred between drives using ABB‚â€™s patented FlashDrop technology.
The quest for miniaturization
Simplicity and ease of use manifest themselves in many ways. The mere fact that drives can now be used in domestic washing machines is a testimony to their extreme compactness. Drives have become smaller, more -capable, easier to use and cheaper, by orders of magnitude.
Smaller drives are easier to install. Panel builders are able to fit more drives into a standard cubicle, so the whole panel can be smaller. This allows the use of smaller and less costly control rooms. It also becomes easier for OEMs to fit drives into their equipment. A classic example of this is in cranes, an application that has always had very limited space for the drive.
The reductions in drive size have resulted from the use of fewer components, greater packing density, improvements in semiconductor technology and improved cooling techniques. In fact, there has been a ten-fold decrease in the size of drives over the past 10 years.
Driving down cost
An additional benefit of reducing
the component count in a drive is that it cuts costs. ABB
predicts that, over the next few years, the parts count of its drives
will be reduced by approximately 20% through the use of integrated
electronics to eliminate separate components such as external flash and
RAM memories and analog/digital converters. Mechanical parts are also
being integrated, for example, by combining frames and enclosures,
allowing them to perform multiple functions.
Reducing part count also enhances reliability: fewer
parts mean fewer interfaces and fewer mechanical fixings, which are
often a source of failures.
A reduction in the
power losses per-unit-area-of-silicon used means that the same silicon
area is able to handle more power. This has enabled smaller
semiconductors and reduced the need for cooling within the drive. This,
in turn, allows the use of smaller heat sinks and reduced air volumes
inside the drive‚â€”the result is smaller and smaller drives. The only
limitations are the terminals because these must accommodate cables
that are large enough to carry sufficient current to the drive.
While air cooling is likely to remain the dominant technique, liquid
cooling is finding increasing use in areas such as wind power,
transportation and marine applications, as reflected by the recently
launched, liquid-cooled ABB industrial drive.
Today’s software monitors, diagnoses,
configures and archives information and parameters concerning drives in
industrial plants. Set-ups are performed entirely using software
functions, and then downloaded to the appropriate drives.
The set-up information is archived for future
retrieval. To obtain the full benefit of this technology, however,
operators must still refer to the user manual. ABB is striving to
develop intelligent control panels that will significantly decrease the
need for paper-based manuals. The secret, though, is to find an easy
way of accessing this kind of functionality. Enter the keypad.
The ideal keypad
ABB’s R&D team scrutinized every
aspect of how a user interfaces with a drive and developed what it
believes is the most user-friendly keypad ever. The keypad for the ABB
standard drive features only eight soft keys, through which all
parameters, functionality and set-ups can be accessed.
The magic of wizards
With the start-up assistant, a tool
is provided that guides the user through both start-up and
commissioning by asking questions in plain text language. There are no
complex parameter numbers or codes. The product’s intelligence helps
the user through the commissioning process.
A common look and feel allows the users to switch
between different ABB products easily, without having to go through a
time-consuming learning process for each new product.
FlashDrop is a patented new
technology that streamlines the drive configuration process, allowing
users to download a set of parameters in just two seconds. No
specialized knowledge is required to use FlashDrop and the user
interface will be familiar to users of the company’s drives.
While the HMI is clearly important, ABB has also
been looking at ways to simplify customer applications using the
functionality packed into a drive. One of the drivers is the customer’s
interest in total cost of ownership, which includes commissioning,
swap-outs and maintenance.
AC drive users can now reduce costs
even more by employing application-specific drive solutions. These
drives incorporate incremental functionality that supports specific
applications such as fan and pump control, mixers, or crane controls.
They can reduce the total cost of ownership through shorter start-up
times, lower integration costs, and improved machine productivity.
Time savings during commissioning can range from one to several hours.
The process does not require expert programmers and, therefore, saves
the considerable expense of sending commissioning engineers around the
globe to fine-tune individual drives.
Filed Under: Drives (ac) + VFDs + starters, Motion control • motor controls