System Comparison, An electrical system

With an electrical system we have three basic choices; a solenoid, a DC motor or the ubiquitous workhorse of industry, the AC induction motor. Of these, the solenoid produces a linear stroke directly but its stroke is normally limited to a maximum distance of around 100 mm.

Both DC and AC motors are rotary devices and their outputs need to be converted to linear motion by mechanical devices such as wormscrews or rack and pinions. This presents no real problems; commercial devices are available comprising motor and screw.

The choice of motor depends largely on the speed control requirements. A DC motor fitted with a tacho and driven by a thyristor drive can give excellent speed control, but has high maintenance requirements for brushes and commutator.

An AC motor is virtually maintenance free, but is essentially a fixed speed device (with speed being determined by number of poles and the supply frequency). Speed can be adjusted with a variable frequency drive, but care needs to be taken to avoid overheating as most motors are cooled by an internal fan connected directly to the motor shaft. We will assume a fixed speed raise/lower is required, so an AC motor driving a screwjack would seem to be the logical choice.

Neither type of motor can be allowed to stall against an end of travel stop, (this is not quite true; specially-designed DC motors, featuring good current control on a thyristor drive together with an external cooling fan, can be allowed to stall), so end of travel limits are needed to stop the drive.

We have thus ended up with the system shown in Figure 1.1 comprising a mechanical jack driven by an AC motor controlled by a reversing starter. Auxiliary equipment comprises two limit switches, and a motor overload protection device. There is no practical load limitation provided screw/gearbox ratio, motor size and contactor rating are correctly calculated.


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