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`Mass customised` drives will offer 1.6 million variants
Published:  01 September, 2003

`Mass customised` drive will offer 1.6 million variants

Danfoss has revealed details of its most significant drives development for several years. The AutomationDrive FC300, which has taken three years to develop, has been designed to handle a wide range of duties from standard motor speed control to servo performance.

The idea is that users will use differently tailored versions of the same drive at different points on a production line or within a machine. They will only need to learn one interface, and spares-holding and maintenance will be simplified.

The drives have a modular design, allowing purchasers to specify exactly what they want in each drive. Danfoss estimates that the various options will result in about 1.6 million possible variants on the basic drive. The modular structure will also allow users to add or update features at a later date as their needs change, or as new components and software are released by the company.

An extremely flexible production line, capable of producing more than 500,000 drives a year, is being set up in Denmark. This "mass customisation" line will manufacture every drive to a precise customer specification (sent via the Internet) and despatch it within 24 hours of receiving the order. The plant will not build any drives for stock. Every drive rolling off the line can be different from the next, and even the instruction manuals will be printed individually for each drive (see below).

Originally, Danfoss had hoped to launch the AutomationDrive this autumn, but the sophistication and complexity of the production processes has led to delays, and the first models are now expected to roll off the production line early next year.

Sven Ruder, president of Danfoss` drives division says the company has invested "a huge amount of money" in the AutomationDrive which, he predicts, "will make a shift in the market".

A large part of the investment has gone into a new, highly automated printed circuit board plant (above) which, every day, will produce enough PCBs to cover a football pitch.

Standard features on the new drives include:

• automatic fine-tuning of the drive to the motor and the application;

• an "intelligent" early warning system which detects potential problems and adjusts the drive`s performance accordingly, allowing the user to take steps to avoid damage;

• a safe stop function the prevents the drive from starting unintentionally, and has been approved for use in Category 3 installations as defined in EN 954-1; and

• protection against incorrect settings and misuse.

There are four "slots" for self-contained option modules. Options include support for Profibus, DeviceNet, CANopen, Ethernet and Profisafe communications; as well as digital, analogue, sin-cos encoder, and resolver I/Os.

The drives come with basic PLC functions built in to take the load off the central PLC. For users requiring extra processing power, there is an optional PLC module which adds extra inputs and outputs and fieldbus support, and can be programmed using IEC 61131-3 languages. Another optional module provides motion control functions such as synchronising, positioning, and cam profiles.

Special attention has been paid to the AutomationDrive`s control panel, both in its construction and its ease of use. The front has a hermetically sealed one-piece design, that is impervious to moisture and dirt. The buttons make a click sound when pressed, even though there is no mechanical contact, and are illuminated when active.

The programming interface (above) uses a six-line display and works on three levels: basic; experienced and advanced. The basic level shows data such as frequency, number of revolutions, and user-specified variables such as flow and pressure. A press of a button reveals a quick menu that allows more experienced users to adjust individual settings. For advanced users, a complete menu allows any parameter to be varied.

One of Danfoss` aims has been to make the AutomationDrive the easiest to use on the market and users were closely involved in the development programme. "Our goal is the one-button drive," says Leo Birkkjaer Lauritsen, the company`s product project manager for sales and marketing . "We`re not there yet, but we`re trying."

The AutomationDrive has a footprint no larger than the corresponding VLT 5000 and VLT 2800 drives, allowing it to replace the earlier models in side-by-side rows. Users can even continue to use existing wiring diagrams because the new drive can be set up to display the same terminal screw numbers for its spring-loaded terminals as the earlier VLT drives.

The AutomationDrive will emerge in a rolling programme over the next few years. Initially, there will be two versions - the FC301 for low-to-medium-speed applications, and the FC302 for high demand speed control and dynamic servo applications, with or without motion control functions. These initial models will span power ratings from 0.25-7.5kW. They will be joined later by more powerful versions.

Also in the pipeline is a Bluetooth module that will give users a wireless link to their drives. As technology evolves, users will be able to monitor, control and reconfigure their drives via the Internet, a mobile phone or a handheld computer.

Danfoss is placing a lot of faith in the AutomationDrive`s modular concept which will form the basis for other product ranges in the coming years.

Despite the contraction in the global drives market, sales by Danfoss` motion controls business grew by 2.3% last year to reach €484m, generating an operating profit of €11.6m. When adjusted for non-recurring income - primarily resulting from the sale of its flow division to Siemens - profit in the motion control business improved by about €10.9m.

Danfoss claims to be the European drives market-leader in the power range in which it operates, as well as being in the top five worldwide.

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