Bluetooth connectivity makes VFDs safer, easier to use

Variable frequency drive (VFD) manufacturers are introducing a wide range of product advances that improve performance, simplify installation and operation, and increase safety.

01/05/2018


Figure 1: The ability to connect a smartphone to one or more variable frequency drives (VFDs) through Bluetooth is one of the recent developments that have made the operation of drives easier and safer. Courtesy: ABB Inc.Motors consume approximately 66% of the electricity in an industrial facility. With industrial electricity usage expected to grow substantially over the next 10 years, facilities of all types are equipping motors with variable frequency drives (VFDs) to reduce consumption and gain other production efficiencies.

Though only 10% to 15% of industrial motors are controlled by a VFD, the number is increasing. Leading drives manufacturers are cultivating the growing market by introducing a wide range of product advances that improve performance, simplify installation and operation, and increase safety for those who operate the equipment. 

Bluetooth connectivity

The ability to connect a smartphone to one or more VFDs through Bluetooth is a recent development that has made the operation of drives easier and safer (see Figure 1). With a smartphone app developed by the manufacturer—typically available for free from either Google Play or the Apple Store—it is possible to wirelessly connect to VFDs to execute any task an operator could accomplish by directly accessing the drive keypad. Depending on the layout and structure of the facility, Bluetooth is functional up to 250 ft. from the drive.

With the VFD app, an operator can pair the smartphone to multiple drives through a simple set of initiation instructions. Each drive must have a Bluetooth-enabled keypad, which is standard or available as an option on the newest generation of drives from participating manufacturers (see Figure 2). Descriptive names and passcodes dedicated to each drive assure parameters and loggers for each VFD are kept separate and are secure from unwanted access.

Once installed, Bluetooth provides the means to commission, tune, and maintain a VFD, often keeping users from having to enter hazardous or difficult-to-reach work areas. 

Increased operator safety

Figure 2: Each drive must have a Bluetooth-enabled keypad, which is standard or available as an option on the newest generation of drives from participating manufacturers. Courtesy: ABB Inc.In many industrial facilities, the full array of drives is installed in a control room cabinet, isolated from the motors they control. With each VFD charged with 480 V of power, the potential for an arc flash is high when an operator opens the door to access the drive keypads. Rather than requiring an operator to put on cumbersome arc flash personal protective equipment (PPE), it is easier and more efficient to access the VFDs through the Bluetooth connection via the smartphone.

The same convenience is applicable to drives mounted high on a wall, in a loud room, or behind a partition. Using a smartphone is safer and easier than climbing a ladder, entering a high decibel area, or walking to a far-flung location only for the operator to have forgotten the keys to the door. 

Full parameter functionality

The Bluetooth interface from the most sophisticated manufacturers provides full parameter access. All important functions can be analyzed, adjusted, and backed up with a smartphone and all event loggers are fully captured and easily available.

William Nyback is a product specialist for high performance drives at ABB Inc. Edited by Jack Smith, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, jsmith@cfemedia.com.

MORE ANSWERS

KEYWORDS: Variable frequency drives, VFDs 

  • The ability to connect a smartphone to one or more VFDs through Bluetooth is one of the recent developments that have made the operation of drives easier and safer.
  • In many industrial facilities, the full array of drives is installed in a control room cabinet, isolated from the motors they control.
  • The Bluetooth interface from the most sophisticated manufacturers provides full parameter access, meaning all important functions can be analyzed, adjusted, and backed up with a smartphone.

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