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5 essential functions of a Variable Speed Drive…other than controlling motor speed

Variable Speed Drives (VSDs) have grown greatly in popularity over the past decade.

Their ability to generate energy savings by varying the speed of the motors has made them a “must-have” in power-hungry process plants. However, like so many other devices today, customers want VSDs to do more than simply control motor speed.

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Below are five essential functions of a modern VSD in addition to speed control.

  1. Energy monitoring

It isn’t enough for VSDs to be able to reduce energy consumption: today customers want to know how much energy their plant equipment is using, and when.

Schneider Electric’s Altivar Process range of VSDs, for example, offer power monitoring with a greater than 95% accuracy. Being able to access such accurate data about energy usage remotely and in real-time empowers customers to make decisions about their processes which can translate into energy savings of up to 35%.

  1. IIOT Connectivity

 Customers today expect connectivity from all of their devices, and VSDs are no exception.

When a VSD can connect to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT), it is no longer simply a tool for controlling motor speeds. It can provide data about energy usage, process efficiency and maintenance demands (see below). This data can be accessed via generic applications on any smartphone or tablet, giving plant operators Big Data insights at their fingertips.

The Altivar 900 VSD range’s advanced operational intelligence, which allows operators to make informed decisions on everything from single-drive projects to complex multi-drive applications, led to it winning the Control Engineering 2017 Engineers' Choice Award.

  1. Predictive maintenance

If a motor parameters vary more than tolerance, it could be a sign that one of the power train components needs to be maintained or repaired. Traditional VSDs do not supply this information back to operators, and so maintenance is usually carried out on a routine schedule. The reality of investigating assets at fixed intervals is that often parts can fail in between inspections and services, shutting down operations.

VSDs that offer condition-based monitoring and advanced diagnostics allow operators to carry-out predictive maintenance, looking out for tell-tale signs and deviations in the data suggesting a component may need to be repaired or replaced before it fails.

We have found with the predictive maintenance capability in the Altivar Process VSDs that our customers’ downtime can be cut by a fifth.

  1. Embedded safety

Most modern drives should come equipped with some level of safety embedded in the device – even if it is just the Safe Torque Off function, which ensures that no torque-generating energy can continue to act upon a motor once the drive is switched off.

For those VSDs capable of connecting to the IIOT, another kind of safety needs to be embedded in the drive: cybersecurity.  While there should be many layers of security in a company’s I.T. system, the drive itself should also offer some level of protection.

The Altivar Process range gives customers peace of mind on cybersecurity, as it comes certified as offering the latest Achilles 2 level of protection against would-be hackers.

  1. User experience

Human Machine Interfaces (HMI) has come a long way in the industrial environment, but in a world where operators are used to accessing the latest in user experience on their smartphones, there is always room for improvement.

Part of that improvement comes in having VSDs that can integrate seamlessly with electronic devices like smartphones and tablets. 

Not only can the Altivar Process VSDs data such as energy usage statistics be accessed via mobile devices, but the drives can also help guide operators to the information they need quickly through utilisation of the embedded web server or through the graphical HMI which can generate QR codes for the operator to scan and access the information they need on their handheld device. So, for example, if there is a drive fault a “fault QR code” will be generated that the maintenance engineer can scan and access the relevant instructions online to clear the fault, this empowered operate service allows a reduction in downtime and increases process productivity and overall equipment efficiency

Does your VSD have all of these essential modern functions?

If not, take a deeper look at the Altivar Process range by visiting our website to access technical specifications and customer case studies.

Over 30 years exeperince in the Industrial controls market specialising in Variable Speed Drives. Experience in Design, aplllciation engineering, installation and technical product managment.
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