Role of VFDs in Motion Control
Published on : Tuesday 31-10-2023
VFDs are a critical motion control technology that offers numerous benefits, says Darshana Thakkar.
Have you ever wondered about the technology behind the autonomous moving devices we see in our daily lives? Automated subways and elevators; autonomous vehicles and material handling equipment; automatic doors, amusement park rides, and many more. Motion control technology is at the heart of these innovations. This unique and crucial technology is responsible for the smooth and efficient operation of these automated solutions, making our modern lives more convenient, safe, and enjoyable.
Motion control technology plays a significant and multifaceted role in the modern world, impacting various industries and applications. It involves the precise management and manipulation of the movement of machines and systems.
Types of motion control technologies:
1. Stepper Motors: Stepper motors are used for open-loop control systems that require precise positioning, such as 3D printers and CNC machines. They move in discrete steps, making them suitable for applications where accuracy is critical.
2. Servo Motors: Servo motors are suitable for closed-loop control systems. They provide high precision, speed, and torque control, making them ideal for industrial robots, CNC machining, and automated manufacturing applications.
3. AC and DC Motors: They are used in various applications, including conveyors, fans, and pumps. They are simple to control and find widespread use in both simple and complex systems.
4. Linear Motors: Used to control linear motion. They offer high precision and speed, making them suitable for pick-and-place machines and high-speed manufacturing applications.
5. Pneumatic and Hydraulic Systems: These systems use compressed air or hydraulic fluid to control motion, and they are most suitable in heavy machinery, automotive manufacturing, and aerospace applications.
Requirement and application of motion control technology
1. Manufacturing industry: It is used in manufacturing for material handling, robotic assembly, and CNC machining tasks.
2. Robotics: It is fundamental in robotics for controlling the movements of robotic arms, grippers, and end-effectors. Robots are used in automotive manufacturing, logistics, and healthcare for welding, pick-and-place operations, and surgery.
3. Automotive industry: For automated car manufacturing, including tasks like painting, welding, and assembly. They help ensure the high precision and repeatability required in automotive production.
4. Food and beverage industry: In food industries for packaging, filling machines and labelling systems, to automate production processes and maintain product quality.
5. Textile Industry: In textile machinery for precise control of yarn tension, weaving, and fabric winding.
6. Oil and gas industry: For drilling equipment and offshore platforms for precise positioning and management.
7. Logistics and warehousing: Automated material handling systems in warehouses and distribution centers rely on motion control to efficiently move goods.
8. Smart agriculture: In modern agriculture, a motion control system is used in autonomous tractors and harvesters, as well as in precision agriculture applications for tasks like planting, spraying, and harvesting.
9. Aerospace and defense: In the aerospace industry, motion control technologies are used in aircraft control surfaces, missile guidance systems, and crewless aerial vehicles. They provide stability and control for precise maneuvers.
10. Transportation: It plays a crucial role in transportation systems, from automated subways and elevators to autonomous vehicles.
11. Medical devices: Medical devices such as surgical robots, CT scanners, and prosthetic limbs use these technologies to ensure accurate and safe movement during medical procedures and patient care.
12. Energy generation: Wind turbines and solar tracking systems use motion control technology to optimise their orientation for maximum energy capture.
13. Consumer electronics: Accelerometers and gyroscopes provide motion sensing for screen rotation and gaming applications in smartphones and gaming consoles.
14. Entertainment and simulations: Motion control is used in theme park rides, flight simulators, and virtual reality systems to create immersive experiences and realistic simulations.
15. Environmental monitoring: Motion control technology is used in devices like weather tracking systems and environmental monitoring stations to adjust the orientation and positioning of sensors precisely.
How does this efficient motion control happen?
The variable frequency drive or VFD is crucial for smooth, reliable, precise, safe, and efficient motion control of all the above mentioned applications.
A Variable Frequency Drive (VFD), also known as Variable Speed Drive (VSD) or Adjustable Frequency Drive (AFD), is a type of motor controller used in various applications to control the speed and torque of an electric motor by varying the frequency and voltage supplied to the motor. VFDs are used in multiple industries and applications due to their energy efficiency, process control capabilities, and the ability to reduce wear and tear on mechanical components. VFDs are a key technology in modern automation and motor control systems.
VFDs work on the principle of converting fixed-frequency and voltage AC power (typically 50Hz in India) into variable-frequency and variable-voltage output. It enables precise control of motor speed.
VFDs consist of three main components:
1. A rectifier: It converts the incoming AC power into DC power
2. DC bus: It stores and smoothens the DC power
3. An inverter: It converts the DC power back into variable-frequency AC power, which is then supplied to the motor.
Key area of application for VFDs
1. HVAC systems for precise control of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.
2. In Industrial, pumps and fans control speed and flow.
3. For Conveyor systems in manufacturing and material handling equipment.
4. Machine tools for precise speed and torque control.
5. Elevators and escalators for smooth starts and stops.
6. Process control in various industries like water treatment, paper manufacturing, and chemical production.
7. Electric vehicle propulsion systems.
Critical benefits of VFDs
i. Energy efficiency: VFDs significantly reduce energy consumption by matching the motor speed to the actual load requirements.
ii. Precise control: VFDs provide precise control over motor speed, acceleration, and deceleration, leading to better process control and reduced wear and tear on equipment.
iii. Soft start/stop: VFDs enable smooth and gradual motor start-ups and stoppages, reducing mechanical and electrical stress.
iv. Reduced maintenance: VFDs can extend the lifespan of motors and related equipment by reducing wear and tear.
v. Process optimisation: VFDs allow for better optimisation of processes, as they can be easily adjusted to accommodate changing production demands.
vi. Space and cost savings: VFDs can save space and reduce initial equipment costs by eliminating the need for mechanical transmission systems like gears and pulleys.
vii. Compliance with environmental regulations: VFDs contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meet regulatory requirements for energy efficiency and environmental sustainability.
viii. Improved power factor: VFDs can improve the motor system's power factor, reducing energy losses and improving overall system efficiency.
Unique features of VFDs
a. PID control: Some VFDs support Proportional-Integral-Derivative (PID) control loops for maintaining precise control over a process variable.
b. Communication interfaces: Many VFDs have interfaces (such as Modbus, Ethernet, or Profibus) to integrate control systems and remote monitoring.
c. Protection Features: VFDs include built-in features like overcurrent, overvoltage, and undervoltage protection, which help safeguard the motor and drive.
d. Energy monitoring: Some VFDs offer monitoring capabilities to track energy consumption and optimise performance.
e. Remote monitoring and Diagnostics: Many VFDs are equipped with monitoring and diagnostic features, allowing operators to remotely track motor performance and detect issues before they become critical.
f. Multi-motor control: Some VFDs can control multiple motors simultaneously, which is helpful in applications with numerous motors working in tandem.
g. Harmonic filters: VFDs may include built-in or external harmonic filters to mitigate harmonic distortion in the power system.
1. IoT integration: Motion control technologies are increasingly integrated with the Internet of Things (IoT) for remote monitoring, predictive maintenance, and data analytics.
2. Machine learning and AI: AI and machine learning are being used to improve motion control algorithms for predictive and adaptive control.
3. Collaborative robots (Cobots): These robots are designed to work alongside humans and rely on advanced motion control for safety and efficiency.
4. Miniaturisation: As technology advances, motion control components are becoming smaller and more precise, allowing for new applications and innovations.
5. Energy efficiency: There is a growing emphasis on developing energy-efficient motion control systems to reduce environmental impact and operational costs.
Top players in the VFD market in India include: ABB, Siemens, Danfoss, Fuji Electric, Johnson Controls, Mitsubishi Electric, Omron, Rockwell Automation, Schneider Electric and Yaskawa.
VFDs are a critical motion control technology that offers numerous benefits, including energy savings, precise control, reduced maintenance, and improved system efficiency. They are widely used in various industries to enhance process performance, reduce energy consumption, and meet environmental regulations. Proper installation and maintenance are essential to maximise the advantages of VFDs and ensure reliable, efficient motor control.
The VFD market, driven by the rising demand for energy-efficient systems, surpassed USD 20.7 billion in 2022 and is projected to record over 4.3% CAGR from 2023 to 2032.
Motion control technology is integral to modern society, influencing various aspects of our lives, from the products we use daily to the industries that drive economic growth. It enhances efficiency, precision, safety, and sustainability across various applications, making it a vital component of today's technological landscape.
Darshana Thakkar is MSME Transformation Specialist and Founder, Transformation – The Strategy Hub. An Electrical Engineer followed by MBA – Operations with hardcore industry experience in managing business operations, Darshana is an expert in transformation of businesses that helps them achieve growth with speed and scale. She has invested 27 years in transforming Micro and Small Enterprises. Her rich experience in resolving pain areas and the MSME/SME industry's real-life problems are helping the organisation for quick results.
Darshana has helped many MSMEs to increase profitability & achieve sustainable growth. She is keen on the growth of Indian Startups, providing mentoring and hand-holding support to startups to make them succeed quickly.
She is very passionate about supporting women in pursuing their career and life goals. She is actively working for women's entrepreneurship and leadership development.
· Founder and CEO of Transformation
· Certified Women Director by IICA, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India
· Empanel and recognised Startup mentor and Trainer by CED, Government of Gujarat
· Registered and Verified Business Advisor – Tata Nexarc, Tata Business HUB, Mumbai, and
· Chairperson: MSME Support & PRO at Makarpura GIDC Association, Vadodara.
MSME Transformation and Strategic Advisor – MSME Business Forum India, Darshana has received various accolades:
· Winner of Gujarat Women's leader award 2022 by CMO Asia
· Winner of Influential Women leader in business by Insight Success 2022
· Recognised as India's most trusted consulting company by Insight Success 2022
· Felicitated by Mentor my board in the gracious presence of Honourable FM Mrs. Nirmala Sitaraman during Women Director's conclave – 2022
· Felicitated by the president of Makarpura GIDC Association during the Suvarna Jayanti Mahotsav on 17th December 2022 for her excellent contribution in supporting MSME and startup Businesses.
Apart from this, she is an author and publishes her blog, article, and case study related to the industry. Email: [email protected]