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Family of tailored drives `will revolutionise the market`

01 November, 2012

Emerson Industrial Automation`s variable speed drives business, Control Techniques, has announced its most significant new range in years – a family of seven types of AC drive, each tailored to the needs of a particular group of manufacturing automation users. The drives will make their public debut at the SPS/IPC/Drives show in Germany in November.

Control Techniques identified the user groups by analysing the results of a global survey of more than 830 customers, and a further 100 in-depth interviews. The new drives (some of which are shown above) range from simple, open-loop “value” inverters, rated at up to 7.5kW, to “ultimate” models with sophisticated onboard motion controls, that will be able to handle loads up to 1.2MW.

In between will be drives aimed at safety applications and permanent magnet servomotor applications, among others. Control Techniques has already applied for 30 patents to protect technologies used in the new family, which it is calling Unidrive M.

One key innovation is a new real-time machine control protocol using standard Ethernet TCP/IP and UDP to provide a compact, efficient messages that free up Ethernet network bandwidth and minimise network loading. This will allow the drives to talk to each other directly, instead of having to route communications via a traditional machine controller. Each Ethernet-enabled drive will have a built-in dual-port Ethernet switch with RJ-45 connectors, simplifying the task of networking machines.

The onboard real-time Ethernet (using IEEE 1588 V2) is claimed to achieve synchronisation rates across a network of less than 1µs, update rates as low as 250µs, and almost unlimited node counts. 

Some applications, such as electronic line shafts, can be set up without having to write any program code. The drives communicate with each other automatically, synchronising their control loops so that they can co-ordinate their operation seamlessly. CT’s Ethernet protocol can work alongside others, such as Profinet RT, Ethernet/IP and Modbus TCP/IP.

Tom Alexander, CT’s vice-president of technology, describes the new Ethernet protocol as “far and away the most advanced on the market”, adding that it has been designed “with the factories of the future in mind”. The drives, he declares, “offer the best performance on the market today”.

To accompany the hardware, CT has developed two software packages: a configuration and monitoring tool called Unidrive M Connect, that allows users to optimise drive tuning, back up configuration sets, and troubleshoot; and an automation development environment, called Machine Control Studio, that uses IEC 61131-3 programming languages and is powered by Codesys. The two packages can run simultaneously.

Users do not need to know details about their drives or parameter menus to perform tasks such as setting up drives and applications, monitoring systems, optimising motor performance, or even writing advanced system programs.

The new drives are said to deliver more than double the control loop bandwidth compared to earlier technologies. ‘Unique’ motor control algorithms, combined with the latest microprocessors, provide high stability and performance levels for motors ranging from standard AC induction machines to dynamic linear motors, energy-saving permanent magnet motors and high-performance servomotors.

Jay Wirts, Control Techniques’ vice-president of strategic marketing, says that Unidrive M will “offer customers a highly optimised drives family that is more closely tailored to their needs than any other offering available on the market. I am convinced that our new range is going to transform the performance and productivity of our customers’ machines.”

According to CT president, Enrique Miñarro Viseras, Unidrive M will be followed by other ranges aimed at the company’s other main market sectors. “This will enable us to match our products to the precise requirements of all customers in all sectors in a way that has never been done before,” he says. “Our goal as a company is nothing less than to revolutionise the drives market for the benefit of our customers.”

The Unidrive M family is being manufactured both in the UK and in China (for the Asian market).

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