A soft starter is, as you would expect, a device which ensures a soft starting of a motor.
A softstarter has different characteristics to the other starting methods. It has thyristors in the main circuit, and the motor voltage is regulated with a printed circuit board. The softstarter makes use of the fact that when the motor voltage is low during start, the starting current and starting torque is also low.
Soft starters are based on semiconductors. Via a power circuit and a control circuit, these semi-conductors reduce the initial motor voltage.
This results in lower motor torque.
During the starting process, the soft starter gradually increases the motor voltage, thereby allowing the motor to accelerate the load to rated speed without causing high torque or current peaks.
Soft starters can also be used to control how processes are stopped. Soft starters are less expensive than frequency converters.
Another feature of the softstarter is the softstop function, which is very useful when stopping pumps where the problem is water hammering in the pipe system at direct stop as for star-delta starter and direct-on-line starter.
They do, however, share the same problem as frequency converters: they may inject harmonic currents into the system, and this can disrupt other processes. (Read more about this)
The starting method also supplies a reduced voltage to the motor during start-up.
The soft starter starts up the motor at reduced voltage, and the voltage is then ramped up to its full value. The voltage is reduced in the soft starter via phase angle. In connection with this starting method current pulses will not occur. Run-up time and locked-rotor current (starting current) can be set.
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Frequency converter starting
Frequency converters are designed for continuous feeding of motors, but they can also be used for start-up only.
The drive consists primarily of two parts, one which converts AC (50 or 60 Hz) to DC and the second part which converts the DC back to AC, but now with a variable frequency of 0-250 Hz. As the speed of the motor depends on the frequency this makes it possible to control the speed of the motor by changing the output frequency from the drive and this is a big advantage if there is a need for speed regulation during a continuous run.
As stated above, in many applications a drive is still only used for starting and stopping the motor, despite the fact that there is no need for speed regulation during a normal run. Of course this will create a need for much more expensive starting equipment than necessary.
By controlling the frequency, the rated motor torque is available at a low speed and the starting current is low, between 0.5 and 1.0 times the rated motor current, maximum 1.5 x In.
Another available feature is softstop, which is very useful, for example when stopping pumps where the problem is water hammering in the pipe systems at direct stop. The softstop function is also useful when stopping conveyor belts from transporting fragile material that can be damaged when the belts stop too quickly.
It is very common to install a filter together with the drive in order to reduce the levels of emission and harmonics generated.
The frequency converter makes it possible to use low starting current because the motor can produce rated torque at rated current from zero to full speed. Frequency converters are becoming cheaper all the time.
As a result, they are increasingly being used in applications where soft starters would previously have been used.
Even so, frequency converters are still more expensive than soft starters in most cases; and like soft starters, they also inject harmonic currents into the network.
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