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It’s easy, sometimes, to forget just how pervasive industrial automation is. And that’s exactly how it should be, of course automation is there to make life easier, not to announce its presence at every turn.

This means that drive manufacturers often find themselves delivering solutions for problems that nobody would think would involve a drive. For Emerson Industrial Automation, for example, some highly unusual applications have appeared recently.

American leisure products manufacturer Aqua Massage International (AMI), for instance, found itself having a problem with its dry water-massage machines, which deliver massages by pumping water against a membrane that is in contact with the user’s body. Customers wanted a machine that had user-customisable controls to provide varied pulsation and pressure across 12 massage zones, including options such as extra water pressure to the lower back or more time spent on certain parts of the body; all of this was to be controlled using a simple handheld device. Meanwhile, the machine also had to comply with international safety and technical standards.

The challenge proved too much for the company to handle on its own. It started by developing its own system, using a proprietary microprocessor mounted on a printed circuit board, with an AC drive for pump control and two others for position and pump control. However, the controller was very costly to develop and its functionality was limited; there was no option to provide the customisable function that users wanted. Rather than going back to the drawing board, incurring extra development costs and pushing back the timescale of the project to an unacceptable degree, AMI turned to Emerson for help with the problem.

The massage unit automatically provides a gentle start and run-down of water pressure and pulsation

Emerson’s Control Techniques division was one of several drives companies that received a process flowchart from AMI with a request for a solution. With a timescale of three weeks, the team devised a system that used four modules to provide the full functionality that AMI had demanded and provided scope for further refinements.

The heart of the system is a 5hp Unidrive SP AC drive, equipped with a programmable SP-Applications module and two additional I/O modules.

The drive controls all the machine logic within the spa unit, including pump control and two non-intelligent DC microdrives. All of the required functions of the unit are programmed into the Applications module using about 2,500 lines of Drive Program Language Code, which is AMI’s own intellectual property. This code includes a body profiler that divides the user’s body into the 12 zones and enables independently programmed water pressure and temperature. The system stores recipes for all the adjustable parameters and presents these options to the user via a human-machine interface.

The system automatically provides a gentle start and run-down of water pressure and pulsation, along with the automated opening and closing of the unit’s canopy at the beginning and end of treatment and a full usage log for each user.

One particular property of the Unidrive AC drive is that it can be used with a ground fault interrupter, which cuts off the power to the system in the case of an electrical fault. Other variable-frequency drives produce a ’leakage current’ that would trip the device, but Control Techniques’ product, the company claims, can be set up to avoid this.

The world of fashion might also seem an odd place to find state-of-the-art automation, depending as it does on handwork. However, Spanish yarn-spinning machine producer Pinter, based in the north of the country, needed help with its products, which have to be adjustable to produce a wide range of yarns.

Pinter’s range includes equipment for producing core-spun yarn, which encloses an elastic, rigid or semi-rigid filament within a textile yarn to produce, when woven, a cloth with the properties of the inner fibre with the appearance and texture of the outer fibre, as well as slub, multi-count and multi-twist yarns, which have irregular thickness and twist and are used to make distinctively textured fabrics.

Spinning these yarns requires machines that can vary the tension and feed speed of the separate fibres that make up the final product. This is a job that calls for tightly controlled motor speeds, and Pinter called in Control Techniques to provide equipment for this duty.

For core yarns, Pinter produces a modular accessory that fits onto all types of spinning frames. This uses rollers to deliver the various fibres into the spinning frame, whose tension is controlled by a Dynamics UMD servomotor with resolver feedback to a Unidrive SP AC drive. A typical machine would have four, six or eight drives and motors. ’We have standardised on Control Techniques servo systems because of their dynamic performance, high torque and fast acceleration and because these motors do not require fans,’ said Francesc Castellà, Pinter’s technical director.

The slub yarn equipment relies on varying the speed of the feed of fibres into the spinning frame, while keeping the yarn production rate constant. Here, drives ensure constant torque, low inertia, high precision and dynamic performance for the random, rapid and controlled changes in acceleration that provide the varying yarn feed.

Drives ensure high precision for the changes in acceleration that provide the varying yarn feed

Emerson also found itself helping some Dutch indoor daredevils, providing drive systems for the Roosendaal Indoor Skydive centre in the Netherlands. Founded by a group of skydivers who wanted to build the biggest such centre in Europe, Roosendaal supports its visitors on a cushion of air provided by 12 massive 200kW fans at the base of a 23.5m-tall, 4.27m-wide tower that has two flight chambers, the lower for experienced skydivers and the upper for the general public.

The fans, with a combined power of 2.4MW, are controlled by 12 freestanding 200kW Unidrive SP cubicle drives, with a further four 110kw Unidrive SP drives providing ventilation to control the tower’s air temperature.

The team behind the centre first started talking to ventilation company Rucon. This led to talks with motor manufacturer Kolmer, which introduced Control Techniques into the mix. The companies worked together to build a system that handled the soft start of the big fans and ensured speed control and maximum energy efficiency to keep running costs down. In addition, while the blown air was confined in a loop, the system had to be able to introduce fresh air for temperature control.

The big fans are arranged in a ring at the base of the tower and are speed locked by the cubicle drives. These blow air horizontally into the centre of the tower, where it is deflected upwards vertically at a speed of up to 250km/h by a shaped cone. At the top of the tower, air collectors return the air to the motor feeds, the back pressure being used to reduce power consumption. When the temperature inside the tower, warmed by the heat from the fans, exceeds a comfortable level, four 110kW ventilation fans at the top of the tower kick in and expel some of the hot air, allowing cooler air in.

The use of variable-frequency drives is instrumental to the tower’s operation. ’The cost-effective operation of the centre depends on the Control Techniques drives,’ said technical manager Erwin van den Braak. ’We need to keep power demand below set levels to prevent incurring peak charges. This means a gentle start-up of the motors. We are careful to optimise bookings together in blocks, and if that is not possible we simply turn down the speed of the motors to about 10Hz instead of turning them off and having to start them up again, which costs a lot and is not effective.’

The centre can accommodate fliers of up to 140kg and with a minimum height of 1.2m, but is already revising this, added Van den Braak. ’A guy of 160kg has flown successfully and, with close supervision of course, even small children can fly they seem to take to it naturally,’ he said.

Drive products help applications from skydiving towers to massage machines

It’s easy, sometimes, to forget just how pervasive industrial automation is. And that’s exactly how it should be, of course automation is there to make life easier, not to announce its presence at every turn.

This means that drive manufacturers often find themselves delivering solutions for problems that nobody would think would involve a drive. For Emerson Industrial Automation, for example, some highly unusual applications have appeared recently.

American leisure products manufacturer Aqua Massage International (AMI), for instance, found itself having a problem with its dry water-massage machines, which deliver massages by pumping water against a membrane that is in contact with the user’s body. Customers wanted a machine that had user-customisable controls to provide varied pulsation and pressure across 12 massage zones, including options such as extra water pressure to the lower back or more time spent on certain parts of the body; all of this was to be controlled using a simple handheld device. Meanwhile, the machine also had to comply with international safety and technical standards.

The challenge proved too much for the company to handle on its own. It started by developing its own system, using a proprietary microprocessor mounted on a printed circuit board, with an AC drive for pump control and two others for position and pump control. However, the controller was very costly to develop and its functionality was limited; there was no option to provide the customisable function that users wanted. Rather than going back to the drawing board, incurring extra development costs and pushing back the timescale of the project to an unacceptable degree, AMI turned to Emerson for help with the problem.

The massage unit automatically provides a gentle start and run-down of water pressure and pulsation

Emerson’s Control Techniques division was one of several drives companies that received a process flowchart from AMI with a request for a solution. With a timescale of three weeks, the team devised a system that used four modules to provide the full functionality that AMI had demanded and provided scope for further refinements.

The heart of the system is a 5hp Unidrive SP AC drive, equipped with a programmable SP-Applications module and two additional I/O modules.

The drive controls all the machine logic within the spa unit, including pump control and two non-intelligent DC microdrives. All of the required functions of the unit are programmed into the Applications module using about 2,500 lines of Drive Program Language Code, which is AMI’s own intellectual property. This code includes a body profiler that divides the user’s body into the 12 zones and enables independently programmed water pressure and temperature. The system stores recipes for all the adjustable parameters and presents these options to the user via a human-machine interface.

The system automatically provides a gentle start and run-down of water pressure and pulsation, along with the automated opening and closing of the unit’s canopy at the beginning and end of treatment and a full usage log for each user.

One particular property of the Unidrive AC drive is that it can be used with a ground fault interrupter, which cuts off the power to the system in the case of an electrical fault. Other variable-frequency drives produce a ’leakage current’ that would trip the device, but Control Techniques’ product, the company claims, can be set up to avoid this.

The world of fashion might also seem an odd place to find state-of-the-art automation, depending as it does on handwork. However, Spanish yarn-spinning machine producer Pinter, based in the north of the country, needed help with its products, which have to be adjustable to produce a wide range of yarns.

Pinter’s range includes equipment for producing core-spun yarn, which encloses an elastic, rigid or semi-rigid filament within a textile yarn to produce, when woven, a cloth with the properties of the inner fibre with the appearance and texture of the outer fibre, as well as slub, multi-count and multi-twist yarns, which have irregular thickness and twist and are used to make distinctively textured fabrics.

Spinning these yarns requires machines that can vary the tension and feed speed of the separate fibres that make up the final product. This is a job that calls for tightly controlled motor speeds, and Pinter called in Control Techniques to provide equipment for this duty.

For core yarns, Pinter produces a modular accessory that fits onto all types of spinning frames. This uses rollers to deliver the various fibres into the spinning frame, whose tension is controlled by a Dynamics UMD servomotor with resolver feedback to a Unidrive SP AC drive. A typical machine would have four, six or eight drives and motors. ’We have standardised on Control Techniques servo systems because of their dynamic performance, high torque and fast acceleration and because these motors do not require fans,’ said Francesc Castellà, Pinter’s technical director.

The slub yarn equipment relies on varying the speed of the feed of fibres into the spinning frame, while keeping the yarn production rate constant. Here, drives ensure constant torque, low inertia, high precision and dynamic performance for the random, rapid and controlled changes in acceleration that provide the varying yarn feed.

Drives ensure high precision for the changes in acceleration that provide the varying yarn feed

Emerson also found itself helping some Dutch indoor daredevils, providing drive systems for the Roosendaal Indoor Skydive centre in the Netherlands. Founded by a group of skydivers who wanted to build the biggest such centre in Europe, Roosendaal supports its visitors on a cushion of air provided by 12 massive 200kW fans at the base of a 23.5m-tall, 4.27m-wide tower that has two flight chambers, the lower for experienced skydivers and the upper for the general public.

The fans, with a combined power of 2.4MW, are controlled by 12 freestanding 200kW Unidrive SP cubicle drives, with a further four 110kw Unidrive SP drives providing ventilation to control the tower’s air temperature.

The team behind the centre first started talking to ventilation company Rucon. This led to talks with motor manufacturer Kolmer, which introduced Control Techniques into the mix. The companies worked together to build a system that handled the soft start of the big fans and ensured speed control and maximum energy efficiency to keep running costs down. In addition, while the blown air was confined in a loop, the system had to be able to introduce fresh air for temperature control.

The big fans are arranged in a ring at the base of the tower and are speed locked by the cubicle drives. These blow air horizontally into the centre of the tower, where it is deflected upwards vertically at a speed of up to 250km/h by a shaped cone. At the top of the tower, air collectors return the air to the motor feeds, the back pressure being used to reduce power consumption. When the temperature inside the tower, warmed by the heat from the fans, exceeds a comfortable level, four 110kW ventilation fans at the top of the tower kick in and expel some of the hot air, allowing cooler air in.

The use of variable-frequency drives is instrumental to the tower’s operation. ’The cost-effective operation of the centre depends on the Control Techniques drives,’ said technical manager Erwin van den Braak. ’We need to keep power demand below set levels to prevent incurring peak charges. This means a gentle start-up of the motors. We are careful to optimise bookings together in blocks, and if that is not possible we simply turn down the speed of the motors to about 10Hz instead of turning them off and having to start them up again, which costs a lot and is not effective.’

The centre can accommodate fliers of up to 140kg and with a minimum height of 1.2m, but is already revising this, added Van den Braak. ’A guy of 160kg has flown successfully and, with close supervision of course, even small children can fly they seem to take to it naturally,’ he said.

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