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VFD control loop circuit faults analysis

The affection on variable frequency drive life in the control loop circuit is the power part, the buffer capacitor in smoothing capacitor and IPM board. The ripple current pass the capacitor is a fixed value which won't be affected by the main circuit, so its life is mainly determined by the temperature and power-on time. Since the capacitors are soldered to the circuit board, it difficult to determine the capacitor deterioration by measuring the electrostatic capacity. Generally, we calculate its life base on the ambient temperature and service time.

Power supply circuit provides power to the control circuit board, IPM drive circuit, operation display panel and cooling fan, the power is obtained from the main circuit DC voltage rectified by the switching power supply. Therefore, if one power short circuit, besides itself damaged, also affect other parts power supply, such as misoperation causes power source and the public ground short circuit, result in switching power supply circuit board damaged, the fans power supply short circuit etc. Generally it's easy to find out by observing the power supply circuit board.

Logic control circuit board is the core of a variable frequency drive, it includes CPU, MPU, RAM, EEPROM etc large scale integrated circuits, the failure rate is very rare due to high reliability. But sometimes all control terminals closed simultaneously during startup which will cause the VFD drive appear EEPROM fault, in such case, just reset the EEPROM.

IPM circuit board contains drivers and buffer circuit, and over-voltage, phase loss protection circuits. Logic control panel PWM signal input to IPM module by voltage drive signal optical coupling, so, we should measure the IPM module optical coupling during module detection.

By |May 26th, 2016|Iacdrive_blog|0 Comments

3 phase induction motor designs

For 3 phase motor designs, there is hardly any slot combination that will yield a perfectly smooth torque-speed curve. Keeping the following rules in mind will (mostly) avoid the combinations that tend to amplify magnetic noise, harmonics, and parasitic torques.

Let the number of stator slots be S, and the number of rotor slots be R, and the number of poles be P. Undesirable combinations occur when any of the following are true:

1. S - R = 0
2. S - R = +1 OR -1
3. S - R = +2 OR -2
4. S - R = +P or -P
5. S - R = +(P + 1) or -(P +1)
6. S - R = +(P + 2) or -(P + 2)
7. S - R = -(P * 2)
8. S - R = -(P * 5)
9. S - R = +(P * 3) or -(P * 3) .. or multiples of +/-(3 * P).

We know the stator should have an even number of slots to make winding easier - although for certain pole counts, it too can be an odd integer value. And except for a few cases, the number of rotor slots can be either even OR odd.

Then it comes down to the accuracy of the compound die or indexing die for the slot stamping.

By |May 26th, 2016|Iacdrive_blog|0 Comments

VFD overcurrent trip during acceleration/deceleration

First, we should know it's caused by loads or itself. If it's the variable frequency drive problem, we can check the trip current from the VFD operation history, to see if the current exceeds the VFDs rated current or electronic thermal relay settings value. If three-phase voltages and currents are balanced, we should consider overload or sudden change situations, such as motor stall. If the load inertia is big, we should extend the acceleration time appropriately, this is suitable for a good VFD. If the trip current is within the variable frequency drive rated current or electronic thermal relay setting range, then it maybe the IPM module or relevant parts failure. In this case, we can measure the variable frequency drive output terminals (U, V, W), and resistance of the P, N terminals on DC side to determine whether the IPM module damaged or not. If the module is good, then we can know it is the drive circuit trouble. If IPM module overcurrent or ground wire short circuit causes the VFD trip in deceleration, generally it's the top half-bridge module or drive circuit fault; If IPM module overcurrent during acceleration, then it is the next half-bridge module or drive part fault. For such failures, mostly it's the external dust entering the variable frequency drives or environment moisture.

By |May 26th, 2016|Iacdrive_blog|0 Comments

Choose motors for electric vehicles

My experience with the types of motors in electric vehicle is the following. There are three choices for motors in EVs, permanent magnet PM, integral permanent magnet IPM, and induction motor IM. They each have their pros and cons. A PM has the highest power density; it was used on a military HEV on which I worked. A con for the PM is the back emf during a vehicle run-away. If the vehicle were to go down hill at a high rate of speed a large bemf would be generated that would damage the IGBTs due to excessive DC bus voltage. The integral permanent magnet motor has smaller power density because the magnets are smaller and interior to the rotor, but is a compromise on the excessive bemf during a run away. The IPM has "half" permanent magnet torque and "half" reluctance torque. The IM has the smallest power density, and thus the physically largest for the same power and torque. On the other hand, it does not have an excessive bemf condition during run-away. The IM is also less expensive, but this was not the main consideration on the HEV on which I worked.

The major reason for using PM or IPM motors is power density and efficiency. That results in better mileage, lower weight and additionally less cooling required.
The cost for PM is significantly higher and availability is lower. Especially in Hybrids PM seems to be standard (e.g. Prius) but they have their own motor design.
For run-away the solution Chip suggested is an option. The short circuit currents are not necessary to high for the inverter if the inductance is high enough. That obviously needs a special design for the motor and possibly a short circuit device between motor and drive. Additionally the transients for the short circuit currents can be twice as high as the steady state short circuit currents. Another option would be to disconnect the driveline from the motor mechanically.
Another motor type that has not been discussed here is the high speed switched reluctance motor. Inexpensive to build and high efficiency (although lower power density).

By |May 26th, 2016|Iacdrive_blog|0 Comments

What’s a variable frequency drive (VFD)?

Variable frequency drive is an electric device to change AC power frequency to control AC motor speed, In addition, it also can change the AC power voltage.

In the past, variable frequency drive was included in motor generators, rotating converters and other electrical equipment. With the emergence of semiconductor electronic devices, VFD can be completely manufactured independent.

Variable Frequency Drive allows the electric motor smooth start up, control startup current growing from zero to motor rated current, reduce impact to the power grid and avoid the motor being burned out, also provide protect in  motor running process. Besides these functions, the main function of variable frequency drive is adjusting the motor running speed according to actual operation conditions, to achieve energy saving effect.

Generally, variable frequency drive contains two components: rectifier and inverter. The rectifier converts incoming AC power to DC power, then the inverter converts DC power to the desired frequency AC power. In addition to these two parts, variable frequency drive may also contain transformer and battery. Wherein the transformer changes the voltage and isolates input/output circuit, the battery compensates energy loss inside the VFD drive circuit.

The variable frequency drive not only changes the AC power frequency, but also can change electric AC motor rotation speed and torque. In such conditions, the most typical VFD structure is a three-phase two level source variable frequency drive. The VFD controls each phase voltage by the semiconductor switch and pulse width modulation (PWM).

In addition, variable frequency drive also can be used in aerospace industry. For example, the electrical equipment inside aircraft needs 400Hz AC power, but generally the power on ground is 50Hz or 60Hz. Therefore, when the aircraft is parked on ground, the variable frequency drive will convert 50Hz/60Hz to 400Hz AC power to suitable for the aircraft.

By |May 26th, 2016|Iacdrive_blog|0 Comments

Full load torque VS Rated torque

All motors have a "torque vs speed" characteristic.

DC machines are very simple: constant torque from zero speed to some "base speed", and then a "constant power" ranging from base speed to top speed. In the constant torque range, acceleration is dependent on applied voltage, with the field under constant full current excitation. In the constant power range, voltage is held constant and the field current is reduced, thereby achieving an increase in speed (hence the term "field weakening").

AC machines are somewhat more complex, since the curves are nowhere near as linear. The key points are:
- "starting torque", which is the torque achieved at the locked rotor (zero speed) condition
- "pull in torque", which is the available machine torque at the point where the machine pulls into synchronism (synchronous machines only)
- "pull out or breakdown torque", which is the peak torque the machine can sustain momentarily before stalling
- "load torque", which is the amount of torque actually required by the process at any operating point
- "accelerating torque", which is the difference between what the machine is capable of producing and the load torque

A machine is rated for the "full load torque" condition which is the rated torque performance of the machine. In imperial (lb.ft) units, that would be 5252 * HP / RPM. It can produce this torque continuously, provided it has the rated conditions of applied terminal voltage and applied terminal current (for both rotor and stator, as applicable).

The time required to start a motor is dependent primarily on the accelerating torque available and the combined inertia (motor + remainder of drive train).

Note that available starting and pull-in torque during the transient operation of starting is proportional to the square of the applied voltage - if the voltage dips below 1.0 per unit, the available torque will be significantly reduced.

When operating an AC machine on a

Compensate electric motors effect of high altitude

Case: Two electrical motors that design for altitude <1000 m but now this two electrical motor have installed on altitude 1880 m and this electrical motors become very hot. The electrical machines power is 15300KW & 9700KW and they cooled by force air and water cooler.

First - machines designed for higher-than-normal altitude (i.e. in excess of 1000 m = 3300 ft above sea level) are designed with lower allowable temperature rises. The rule-of-thumb approximation is 1 degree C for every 100 m above 1000.

This means a typical Class B rise (max 80 C over 40 C ambient) will be designed for a max 71 C rise over ambient at 1880 m altitude.

Since temperature is more-or-less proportional to the square of the current, the design either reduced in output power to limit the current, or is "overdesigned" so that the resultant output power is the effective de-rate condition. In this case, the "sea level" rating of 15300 kW would become 15300 * (71/80)^2 = 15300 * 0.94 = 14382 kW. Likewise, the 9700 kW machine would be rated for 9118 kW.

The ability to cool the machine effectively is based on two things: the amount of coolant in direct contact with the heat source(s), and the pressure of the coolant flow. At altitude, the density of the coolant is reduced significantly, hence the requirement to operate at lower power ratings. The pressure of the airflow over the windings, etc is ALSO reduced at higher altitude, making the cooling more inefficient.

Speeding up the blower (i.e. going from 6 pole speed to 4 pole speed, for example) will overcome some of this by increasing both airflow and pressure. However, the power draw on the blower drive motor may also necessitate an increase in size to accommodate the new loading parameters (including the effects of high altitude on it!). Note that if the air movement within the machine enclosure is dependent solely on the MACHINE rotor speed (i.e. a shaft mounted fan), there will be a need to develop and apply a separately-powered fan to accommodate the required changes.

The probability of voltage breakdown / corona / flashover is increased above 1800 m as well, which means at least taking a cursory look at both creepage and strike distances.

And finally - if, after all this, the machine is still overheating ... time to look at the cleanliness of the liquid side of the heat exchanger. This may mean cleaning or replacing the tubing and headers, determining liquid flow rates (and pressures) and ensuring they are within original design criteria (roughly 3.8 litres per minute for each kW of loss in the rotating machine).

By |May 26th, 2016|Iacdrive_blog|0 Comments

Soft starter settings

Reference voltage adjustment
Reference voltage is the basic condition of the equipment is able to start or not. Reference voltage adjustment requires the electric motor rotates immediately after voltage applied and the load start up. If the motor does not rotate after voltage applied, we should increase the reference voltage setting value; if the motor start speed is too fast, then reduce the reference voltage setting value. Reference voltage adjustment should be repeated for several times until the load starts immediately after voltage applied. For example, a smoke blower has a 110kW motor in debugging process with soft starter, reference voltage adjusts to 75% rated voltage, the starting current is 500A, motor start up fast; reference voltage adjusts to 40% rated voltage, motor start up in slow speed, starting current rise from 200A to 600A smoothly, and current return back after motor start is completed, therefore, it's fully meet the soft-start requirements.

Starting time adjustment
Motor acceleration torque and starting time has direct relationship. Electronic soft starter can make the motor with voltage ramp start from initial voltage to full voltage at the set time (0.5 to 2408). Like it can reduce water impact if we extend the time of water pump flow from 0 to 100%, increase the pump speed variation time means increase the starting time which can be achieved by adjusting the starting time of the soft starter. Starting time should be adjusted according to the specific loads and repeated tests, in order to achieve smooth acceleration within starting time.

Soft stop
Soft starter allows the output voltage decreases gradually to achieve soft stop, in order to protect the equipment. Such as the impact of the water pump, when the pump stops suddenly, the water flow inertia in the pipe will raise the pipe and valves pressure suddenly and cause pipeline damaged. Soft stop to extend parking time will solve such the impact.

By |May 26th, 2016|Iacdrive_blog|0 Comments

129 slot 48 Pole combination in motor design?

Koil can make the synthesis (i.e. design the winding layout from slot-pole combination) only for symmetrical windings. To have a symmetrical 3-phase winding the back EMFs must be equal and out of phase of 120 electrical degrees. Looking at the star of slots, this means that the spokes in the star (or phasors, one for each slot) must be equally spaced and the number of spokes must be multiple of the phase number.

Considering this example, the machine periodicity t is computed as:
t= HCF{Q,p}=HCF{129,24}=3.
Then the number of spokes in the star of slot is Q/t=129/3=43.

In order to have a balanced winding (assuming m=3 as number of phases) Q/t must be divisible by 3. Such condition can be written in general as Q/(m t) integer.

In this case we have Q/(mt)=129/(3 3)= 129/9=14.333 which is not integer, so that the winding is not symmetrical as here described.
Maybe there are some different/non standard arrangement of the winding.

By |May 26th, 2016|Iacdrive_blog|0 Comments

Induction motor surge testing

I'd be very careful about surge testing motors in industrial environments. There is specific guidance from IEEE, NEMA and EASA that talks about surge testing being potentially destructive when done on motors in the field. More specifically, motors with unknown insulation conditions. Surge and hi pot testing are geared for shop testing on repaired or new motors. I'd recommend monitoring online impedance imbalance and current imbalance. We've seen many case studies where these two parameters were early indicators of stator faults. I agree that offline, phase to phase resistance and inductance can be great indicators of stator faults. The downside of offline testing is the fact the motor has to be shutdown.

We also recommend looking for faults conducive to stator failures. For example, if you have a high restive imbalance on the circuit this can increase heat inside the motor. The increased heat further stresses the insulation system and can lead to bigger insulation or stator failures. If we could have found the small problem, ie. resistance imbalance, then we could have prevented the stator fault.

Stator is a tricky fault zone because faults typically develop so quickly. With a good overall motor testing program you can find the faults that lead to stator issues and get them corrected early.
I was trying to point out that impedance imbalance and current imbalance can act as good indicators for stator issues. It seemed to me that most people in the discussion we're focusing on offline tests and there wasn't much mention of online stator testing.

I always think that these discussions are best if they focus on the technical aspects and remain fairly vendor neutral. That's why I didn't really bring up any vendors in my post. I think these discussions are a great way for people to gather a great deal of knowledge from a large sample of reliability professionals. I hope more threads like this pop up because I'm always interested in new technology and finding ways to better diagnose motor faults.

By |May 26th, 2016|Iacdrive_blog|0 Comments