Hitachi brings motor speed control to mass markets
December 1997

Two thirds of the electricity consumed by industry is used by electric motors. Older motors being the most wasteful. If all electric motors in use were as good as the best designs currently available the saving in terms of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere would be reduced dramatically. Furthermore, if these motors employed controls to govern speed, switching and energy efficiency, that saving would be increased by a further order of magnitude. Estimates suggest less than 5% of the AC motors in use in Britain have speed controls applied.

With these facts in mind, it seems likely that at some point governments will intervene in Europe. In the USA, federal legislators have enacted EPAct which prevents inefficient electrical equipment being supplied. It is highly unlikely that many in UK industry will embrace energy efficiency regimes without such government intervention.

It is against this backdrop and with the quest to deliver motor control to substantially greater numbers of applications that Hitachi's design team set about the technical developments whose first example is the L100 miniature inverters.

The internal construction of the new L100 inverter heralds the implementation of AC motor speed control across a vastly greater number of applications - in industrial, commercial and domestic markets.

Rather than merely miniaturising the inverter, Hitachi has completely redesigned the heart of the device. No longer are the intelligent power module (IPM), CPU, protection diodes and rectifiers discrete components within the device. Instead Hitachi has developed what is in effect the first monobloc inverter the Inverter System Power Module (ISPM) .

All that is required to complete the package of the L100 are the capacitors which form the DC link, an interface and a heat sink.

The ramifications for AC motor control are that these monobloc drives can be manufactured using high levels of automation, with potentially huge production volumes and at low cost. Once the inverter becomes cheap enough, there is every incentive for manufacturers to exploit the speed and torque control possibilities of the technology.

Ultimately, these new inverters will find their way into increasing numbers of domestic applications from heating and ventilation pumps to washing machines.

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