Adjustable speed drive (ASD) or variable-speed drive (VSD) describes equipment used to control the speed of machinery. Many industrial processes such as assembly lines must operate at different speeds for different products. Where process conditions demand adjustment of flow from a pump or fan, varying the speed of the drive may save energy compared with other techniques for flow control. Where speeds may be selected from several different pre-set ranges, usually the drive is said to be adjustable speed. If the output speed can be changed without steps over a range, the drive is usually referred to as variable speed. Adjustable and variable speed drives may be purely mechanical (termed variators), electromechanical, hydraulic, or electronic.
See also: Induction motor and synchronous machine AC electric motors can be run in fixed-speed operation determined by the number of stator pole pairs in the motor and the frequency of the alternating current supply. AC motors can be made with one or more stator pole pairs the number of which determines the motor's synchronous or asynchronous speed, synchronous speed being defined as
where n is synchronous speed in RPM, f is frequency in Hertz and p is number of poles. The number of such fixed-speed-operation speeds is constrained by cost as number of pole pairs increases. If many different speeds or continuously variable speeds are required, other methods are required. Direct-current motors allow for changes of speed by adjusting the shunt field current. Another way of changing speed of a direct current motor is to change the voltage applied to the armature. An adjustable speed drive might consist of an electric motor and controller that is used to adjust the motor's operating speed. The combination of a constant-speed motor and a continuously adjustable mechanical speed-changing device might also be called an adjustable speed drive. Power electronics based variable frequency drives are rapidly making older technology redundant.
Process control and energy conservation are the two primary reasons for using an adjustable speed drive. Historically, adjustable speed drives were developed for process control, but energy conservation has emerged as an equally important objective.
- Smoother operation
- Acceleration control
- Different operating speed for each process recipe
- Compensate for changing process variables
- Allow slow operation for setup purposes
- Adjust the rate of production
- Allow accurate positioning
- Control torque or tension
- Allow catching of spinning load (e.g., column of water) after outage