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'First service-oriented drive cuts downtime by 20%'

17 April, 2014

Schneider Electric used the recent Drives & Controls Show in the UK to preview a new generation of variable-speed drives which it describes as its “first service-oriented, intelligent drives family”. The Altivar Process drives have been developed for manufacturing and process industry applications and are designed to help factory owners, plant managers and engineers to manage their processes better, and to ensure that they are performing as efficiently as possible.

The new drives can add digital intelligence to even the smallest of field devices. According to Schneider, this will allow users:

•  to make informed decisions about their entire plant, from the top down;

•  to increase flexibility;

•  to reduce downtime by identifying faults;

•  to speed up processes; and, ultimately,

•  to reduce a plant’s carbon footprint.

Previously, says Schneider, there has been little focus from plant managers to monitor the efficiency of devices such as pumps and to determine whether each pump is operating at its best efficiency point (BEP).

When a pump operates away from its BEP, its performance is adversely affected, resulting in poor efficiency, noise and vibration, and reduced bearing lives. The poor efficiency can also result in pumps running too hot. 

Schneider claims that its Altivar Process drives can cut pump lifecycle costs by 8%

The new drives, which have embedded process control functions, can extract information in real time from connected devices. In the case of pumps, for example, the drives can use their Web-based displays to show the curves of each individual pump, based on its flow rate, head and how efficiently the pump is operating. If they detect any drift away from the BEP, they can inform the user.

This allows the users to make informed decisions about when to carry out certain processes, and for how long. As well as reducing energy costs, Schneider predicts that this will cut pump lifecycle costs by around 8% compared to conventional drives.

The drives incorporates specialised pump functions such as un-jamming routines. They can also alert users to faults and show exactly where and when a fault has occurred, and why – reducing costly downtime by around 20%. The drives can show QR codes on their displays which users can scan with a smartphone or tablet to get detailed information about any faults.

According to Nipun Sibal, Schneider Electric’s product marketing manager for drives in the UK, the Altivar Process drives have been designed “to answer three key needs of today’s plant managers and operators: increased operational effectiveness and faster productivity; better environmental sustainability, so users can do more with less; and finally, the need to reduce downtime and increase asset availability and flexibility.”

The drives allow operators to extract real-time intelligence from all aspects of their facilities, to give them a holistic view. “This not only helps with predictive maintenance and allows manufacturers and engineers to make quicker business decisions,” says Sibal, “but can also reduce energy consumption and costs by a massive 60%.”

The Altivar Process drives will be available from July this year, and will span ratings from 0.75kW–1.5MW. They have embedded Ethernet ports that can be used to monitor energy consumption. They can monitor 500–600 variables.

Next year, users will be able to use Schneider’s Unity engineering software suite to program and monitor the drives, along with other items of equipment in their plants.

As well as pumps, the new drives can also be used to control other equipment, such as fans and compressors. Schneider expects them to appeal to a wide spectrum of industries, including food and beverage, water and wastewater, mining and minerals, oil and gas, and general manufacturing.

The Altivar Process drives family will span ratings from 750W to 1.5MW

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