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Space Shuttle expertise helps to launch compact drives

01 October, 2001

Space Shuttle expertise helps to launch compact drives

Rockwell`s new generation of variable speed drives is now entering the volume market. Following the initial launch last year of the medium-voltage Powerflex 7000 model, the company has added the general-purpose PowerFlex 70 range, covering ratings from 4-15kW, and the 700 range, extending up to 30kW (and eventually due to reach 600kW).

The new drives have been designed to be smaller, more efficient, more reliable and more configurable than earlier Rockwell drives. In some cases, they are up to 60% smaller than their predecessors, allowing twice as many to be accommodated in a panel, or avoiding the need for a new panel when expanding an installation.

Unlike previous Rockwell drives, the new products have been designed from the outset for the global market, rather than being adapted versions of American products. Design input has come from the company`s Swiss operation, where some models will be built, and from Japan.

Rockwell has also tapped the aerospace expertise of its Science Centre in California. A technique, originally developed to analyse hotspots on the Space Shuttle as it re-enters the earth`s atmosphere, has been applied to the drives` heatsinks to maximise their efficiency, allowing the bookshelf-format 700 drives to be mounted side-by-side.

Internal innovations include an "intelligent" thermal overload trip that will try to keep the motor running through an overload, but will shut it down if the overheating is not corrected. Internally mounted communications modules are available for a variety of networks including DeviceNet and ControlNet.

The drives have been designed to be easy to commission and incorporate configuration "wizards" to help users to set them up. Another function called Smart Start, helps users to programme the drives without needing a detailed knowledge of the parameters structures.

An enhanced version of Powerflex 700, incorporating the Logix "engine" used in Rockwell`s latest PLC and smart I/O products, will be launched early next year. This will combine the characteristics of a drive and sequential control PLC in a single device, avoiding the need for a separate PLC.

Mark Daniels, Rockwell`s PowerFlex product manager in the UK, says that the new drives will be lower in price than corresponding earlier products, while offering a more powerful performance. He is confident that the new ranges will help Rockwell to boost its share of the UK drives market.

The final members of the PowerFlex family will be a pair of microdrives, one for single-phase applications, due after Christmas, and the other for three-phase duties up to 4kW, expected late next year.

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