Reining in the workhorses
Electric motors are the workhorses of global industry. They drive pumps, fans and conveyor belts, move hoisting vehicles and elevators, and are used to the same extent to generate compressed air or refrigeration. In view of their widespread deployment, it is no wonder that electric drives account for up to 70 per cent of the power used in industry. If energy conservation measures are not introduced, global power consumption by electric motors is set to double by 2030.
Massive potential for saving energy
Of the roughly 35 million three-phase motors operating in Germany, currently only around 15 per cent are controlled electronically. Approximately 50 per cent of the drives frequently operate at partial load, and the load on them can be altered via their speed of rotation. These drives, which include pumps, compressors or fan drives, for example, should therefore be the focus of efforts to reduce power consumption. Today, these processes are responsible for the majority of electrical energy used in industrial drives. If volume flows were controlled by varying the speed using frequency converters, experts predict that – together with replacing older motors – this alone would result in a potential energy saving equivalent to the power generated by four to five conventional power plants of medium output.
The heart of the drive solution
Power semiconductors are the core component of the frequency converters required for controlling speed, and are therefore key to more efficient utilisation of energy. They enable variable control of the speed of electric drives. Clearly, power electronics is not just a key factor in the current major topic of energy conservation, but is also an indispensable component of industrial automation engineering as a whole – no machine tool or industrial robot would function without controlled drives.
An incredibly important market
Given its high annual growth rate, industrial drive technology is the most important field of application for state-of-the-art power semiconductors. SEMIKRON provides this market with a wide range of power semiconductor modules, such as the MiniSKiiP module which is mounted on the PCB, which has been used a million times over in converters for low power variable speed drives.
Saving costs through scaling
Alongside the demand for ruggedness and improved energy efficiency, there is a cost-driven desire for the converters to be standardised. Using a platform strategy, in which identical or scalable housing shapes can be used for different applications or power levels, the converters can be configured to meet different requirements.