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Future proof your motor drive solutions

24 February 2020

‘Future proofed’ is a description employed by some manufacturers in order to breath confidence into their customers regarding their longevity and long-term suitability for purpose says Brian Bannister

The phrase is intended to convey the machine/system is a sound investment. Frequently claims are valid at the time, however technology moves on and there are new opportunities for manufacturers and designers to incorporate components that can genuinely impart “Future proofing” qualities for years to come. 

IE5, AC electric motors is such an example. From January 2021, the next phase of motor legislation enforces that as a minimum. IE3 efficiency rated motors are used for all applications between 0.75kW and 1000kW with or without a drive. Accordingly, machinery manufacturers are already incorporating these motors as advised. As a result, however, they are missing the opportunity to build in “Future proofing” characteristics in respect of both energy efficiency and possible reduced overall size and weight of machines whilst also avoiding possible future machine/system redesigns.

Today, there are motors available that meet IE4 and IE5 energy efficiency specifications and from certain manufacturers it is a tried and tested, well established technology. Some of these motors employ permanent magnet rare-earth technology that enables the motor manufacturers to get more power from smaller motor frame sizes. Weight reductions can be as much as 50% over standard similarly rated units yet offer between 3 to 4 times greater power output than existing similar frame size motors.

In addition to the rare earth route, some manufacturers can also offer motors employing specially developed permanent magnet ferrite material that achieve similar energy, weight and frame size reductions. This option also offers the additional benefits of stable pricing and assured supply by avoiding the potential vagaries of rare earth magnet material availability. Depending upon the performance requirements of the application and the demands of the customer, some manufacturers can supply rotors where the magnets may be surface mounted (SMPM) or internally mounted (IPM)

Typically, IE4 and IE5 motors are offered as standalone units or with a “piggyback” electric drive as integrated packages. Ideal applications for them are continuous duty work, such as fans, pumps, compressors and heavy-duty conveyors.

These IE4 and IE5 developments have been achieved by companies drawing upon their experience in various different motor technologies employing rare earth magnets and  established technologies, such as servos, combined with their ability to adapt/modify motors to create customised solutions to meet the end users’ requirements.

This last capability has in turn spawned high-performance compact motor variations for specific duties. These include gearless motors for passenger lifts, integrated motor drive units for large circulating fan applications and complete drive packaged solutions for Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV)

Electric motors currently account for around 50% of the energy consumed in Europe, the early adoption of the IE4 and IE5 higher efficiency, permanent magnet motors could help accelerate the reduction in the use of electricity and cut the release of CO2 emissions, thereby helping to combat climate change in-line with our UK government environmental policies.

The major benefits to the user are the dramatic cost savings available and comparable short payback times when considering implementing IE4 and IE5 motors within their plant. According to the European Commission website, a more efficient motor can generate savings ranging from a few euros to several tens of thousands of euros over its lifetime, depending on its power and use pattern.

A typical example might be where an 18.5kW 4-pole IE1 motor is replaced by a similar power IE4 motor. If used for 5000 hours per year, with an energy cost of €0.15 per kWh, the IE4 motor would give an annual saving of €386 thereby achieving a very short payback period. Further details can be found at:

Brian Bannister is Motor Specialist at Lafert Electric Motors Ltd.

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