An electric motor driving a mechanical load, directly or through a gearbox or a V-belt transmission, and the associated control equipment such as power converters, switches, relays, sensors, and microprocessors, constitute an electric drive system. It should be stressed that, as of today, most induction motor drives are still basically uncontrolled, the control functions limited to switching the motor on and off. Occasionally, in drive systems with difficult start-up due to a high torque and/or inertia of the load, simple means for reducing the starting current are employed. In applications where the speed, position, or torque must be controlled, ASDs with dc motors are still common. However, ASDs with induction motors have increasing popularity in industrial practice. The progress in control means and methods for these motors, particularly spectacular in the last decade, has resulted in development of several classes of ac ASDs having a clear competitive edge over dc drives.
Most of the energy consumed in industry by induction motors can be traced to high-powered but relatively unsophisticated machinery such as pumps, fans, blowers, grinders, or compressors. Clearly, there is no need for high dynamic performance of these drives, but speed control can bring significant energy savings in most cases. Consider, for example, a constant-speed blower, whose output is regulated by choking the air flow in a valve. The same valve could be kept fully open at all times (or even disposed of) if the blower were part of an adjustable-speed drive system. At a low air output, the motor would consume less power than that in the uncontrolled case, thanks to the reduced speed and torque.

High-performance induction motor drives,

such as those for machine tools or elevators, in which the precise torque and position control is a must, are still relatively rare, although many sophisticated control techniques have already reached the stage of practicality. For better driveability, high-performance adjustable-speed drives are also increasingly used in electrical traction and other electric vehicles.

Except for simple two-, three-,

or four-speed schemes based on pole changing, an induction motor ASD must include a variable-frequency source, the so-called inverter. Inverters are dc to ac converters, for which
the dc power must be supplied by a rectifier fed from the ac power line. The so-called dc link, in the form of a capacitor or reactor placed between the rectifier and inverter, gives the rectifier properties of a voltage source or a current source. Because rectifiers draw distorted, nonsinusoidal currents from the power system, passive or active filters are required at their input to reduce the low-frequency harmonic content in the supply currents. Inverters, on the other hand, generate high-frequency current noise, which must not be allowed to reach the system. Otherwise, operation of sensitive communication and control equipment could be disturbed by the resultant electromagnetic interference (EMI). Thus, effective EMI filters are needed too.

For control of ASDs,

microcomputers, microcontrollers, and digital signal processors (DSPs) are widely used. When sensors of voltage, current, speed, or position are added, an ASD represents a much more complex and expensive proposition than does an uncontrolled motor. This is one reason why plant managers are so often wary of installing ASDs. On the other hand, the motion-control industry has been developing increasingly efficient, reliable, and user-friendly systems, and in the time to come ASDs with induction motors will certainly gain a substantial share of industrial applications.

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