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Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Packing Sourcer

Servo-Drives Out?

Until recently, many production and packing machines in the pharmaceutical industry were based on servo drives. Now, with new control technology, the less expensive AC drives are muscling in on the act. Steve Ruddell at ABB asks, is it time to call time on servo drives?

As standard AC drives approach their 40th birthday and move into their fifth generation, the technology they use has already evolved to challenge the dominance of other methods of variable speed – such as hydraulic, pneumatic and DC drives. Now, it would appear, it is the turn of the servo drive to do battle with AC drive technology.

“Replacing servo drives with conventional AC drives is a dream of several manufacturers,” says Professor Pacas from the Siegen University, Germany. “To some extent it is truly possible, but you need to be quite clear which applications you are talking about. You also need to be clear about the differences and limitations of each technology.”

A NEW CATEGORY OF DRIVE

The term ‘machinery drive’ has been coined for this new drives category. This term draws together drives with motion control software, used in machinery applications. They are not technically servo drives, however, as the technology is based on standard AC drives.

Until recently, many machine builders relied on servo drive technologies to meet their demands for positional variable speed control. Now they are being encouraged to look at the emerging machinery drives. Because machinery drives are able to drive any type of AC motor, including standard squirrel cage motors, and because these drives use components that are produced in high volumes, they promise the machine builder improved reliability at a lower cost. The transition has been underway for the last five years, but the main change happened when very high open loop performance became available in ordinary drives. This has resulted in servos and, generally speaking, closed loop systems being replaced by low cost inverters in certain applications. It’s all down to shaft performance: low speed torque performance and dynamic response – are the key features.


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Steve Ruddell started his working life as a Technician Apprentice, Electrical/Electronic with GEC Industrial Controls in 1983, progressing to Sales Engineer, Internal Drives Division in 1988. In 1989, Steve left GEC, joining Brush Electrical Machines as Sales Engineer, External Drive Systems, progressing to Sales Manager, Drive Systems. He joined ABB in 1994 as Senior Sales Engineer, System Drives, becoming Manager, Drives and Motors Division in 1998, Manager, OEM, Drives and Motors in 2001 and Manager, Motors and Machines in 2002. Steve took up his latest role Senior Vice-President, Drives and Motors in 2004. He is also a member of the Low Voltage Motors Global Management Team as well as the Global Key Account Manager, Flowserve Corporation.
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