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ABB hopes tiny drives will win bigger slice of global market

01 April, 2002

ABB hopes that its new generation of general-purpose drives, the ACS 800, will boost its share of the global drives market from 14% to 20% within three years. Ian Rennie, president of ABB`s UK automation technology products division, predicts that the new range could also raise the company`s already dominant 17.3% share of the UK market to more than 25% over the same period.

The ACS 800, which goes on sale next month, has accounted for a large part of ABB`s annual $30m drives r&d budget in recent years, with about 200 people working on the project. Rennie declares it is "the most important AC drives product since the launch of DTC (Direct Torque Control) in 1995"

As we reported last month, one of the most dramatic aspects of the new drives is their size. Taking a 160kW version, for example, the previous ACS 600 model is more than six times larger than its ACS 800 counterpart, while the equivalent Siemens Masterdrive is almost eight times larger. For lower ratings, the differences are not as dramatic, but the ACS 800 drives are still said to be smaller than their predecessors and rivals.

Despite the compact dimensions, ABB claims that almost all of the components needed for a drive are either built-in or can be fitted internally as option modules. For example, EMC filters and DC link chokes are built in, while options such as pulse encoder inputs, which would traditionally be external, can be fitted inside as plug-in modules. A wide range of fieldbus systems will be supported using similar plug-in modules

As well as reducing cabling, this means that installers will not need to leave space for external modules to be added at a later date.

The drive contains two main boards - one for control, the other for power. All internal connections are via these boards, avoiding the need for vulnerable ribbon cables.

Another novel aspect of the ACS 800 drives is that they are designed to be mounted either conventionally or side-on, thus providing a shallow mounting depth. The keypad is simply moved from the front to the side of the enclosure.

As reported last month, two other key elements of the ACS 800 are the "start-up assistant" which, ABB claims, makes the drives the quickest and easiest on the market to commission, and "adaptive programming" which gives the drive the functions of a small PLC. This is expected to appeal, in particular, to OEMs.

Within a year, ABB plans to offer wireless communications for the drives, accelerating installation further, and allowing control and monitoring cabling to be reduced or eliminated. The system will be based on the emerging Bluetooth technology.

Initially, the ACS 800 will be available in ratings from 1.1-500kW at 380-500V. By the end of the year, the ratings will reach 3MW, and 690V. Multi-drive systems are planned for next year. Prices will be similar to the ACS 600 models being replaced. ABB will continue to produce the ACS 600 drives for at least a year.

Veli-Matti Reinikkala, vice-president of ABB`s drives business, believes that the ACS 800 could generate new OEM business because of its size and ease of set-up. Until now, ABB has sold around 300,000 drives in the range covered by the ACS 800. It has taken more than six years to achieve this; Reinikkala expects to sell a similar number of ACS 800s within four years.

Already, he reports, ABB`s main drives factory in Helsinki is producing 10-15% more drives than it was doing a year ago.




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