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AutomationDirect offers AC variable speed drives in a variety of sizes, including their own line of GS series drives. GS drives range in size from 1/4 to 10 HP and 230 or 480 VAC input/output, and offer features such as built-in keypads, simple Volts/Hertz control, electronic overload protection, and more. Prices for the GS series drives start at $99.
In addition to their drives products, the company also offers 3,500 industrial automation products through their 1,300-page catalog and online store. The catalog features product descriptions, technical information and price lists for PLC and PC-based control products, operator interfaces, sensors, pushbuttons and more. Call
A Driving Purpose
Factors you should consider before making your next AC drive commitment
AC drives, like much of the hardware used in manufacturing operations, have become greatly commoditized. Every vendor appears to offer the same things with the same features. You might think that would make the buying decision much easier.
Anyone who has recently made such a purchase knows that's far from the case.
Of course, as with most commodity purchases, chances are you'll come out okay with nearly any product you purchase from a reputable vendor. But is okay what you're looking for? And if everyone's virtually offering the same things, how can you really differentiate?
Considering what most buyers use drives for, it should come as no surprise that offerings across the board look similar. Recent survey* data shows that:
86% buy AC drives off-the-shelf
70% rate simple controls/setup as very important when selecting an AC drive
50% say that pumps, fans and blowers are the primary application for drives
40% claim assembly and conveyor lines as their primary applications
More than 1/3 rate torque control as very important
"When you look at drives that are under 100 horsepower, especially those under 10 horsepower, everything is moving toward unity," says Carl Tolbert, AC Drive Specialist with AutomationDirect. "The top vendors generally have the same features, the same durability, and warranties. What you're left with is price and service."
If the state of the drives market is so generic, one has to wonder if anything is affecting the direction of the way drives are produced beyond low price and serviceability. According to Tolbert, the biggest change has taken place with the communication capabilities of drives.
"The only standardized source of communications used to be ASCII. This didn't go over too well because everything had to be custom written," says Tolbert. "Then MODBUS RTU and the other communication protocols such as DeviceNet and PROFIBUS came on the market and really opened up the possibilities. Now, when you communicate with a drive you can see all the parameters like DC bus voltage, output current, or output frequency, whereas if you were doing this with analog feedback for monitoring, you would have to have an individual channel to read the same information. In such cases the drives are often limited as to the amount of I/O. Basically, with the new protocols, you get more data with less hardware."
The biggest gains from the newer communication capabilities are ease of use for SCADA and, as an added benefit, maintenance in CMMS as improved communications allow for improved accuracy when it comes to pinpointing problems.
With drive offerings much the same across the board, leaving the buyer only to consider price and service differentiators, how do you make the final decision? On the price side of the equation, that's a straightforward decision to make. But what about service?
"Look at recognized durability," says Tolbert. "AutomationDirect offers a standard 2-year warranty and a 30-day return policy. Our return policy lets the user know they can try this drive out and see that the features and durability are the same as many of the top name drives on the market, but the warranty is better, it's cheaper, and is easier to use. The GS drives come with default parameters set in such as way that, for many applications, the drive will operate right out of the box. This makes it easier to get up and running. And if the customer does need assistance, our tech service is top-notch.
"We treat everybody the same. If someone calls with a milling machine or drill press question or a multi-million dollar conveyor question, we're going to treat them both with the same enthusiasm. If there's ever a question a customer wants to ask us about an application, they can always call us at 770-844-4200."
* Data from "AC Adjustable-Speed Drives Product Focus Study (2003)," sponsored by Control Engineering and conducted by Reed Research Group.
GS AC drives
AutomationDirect's GS AC drives were designed with simplicity and robustness in mind. GS1 Series specifications include: 115/230 VAC input, 230 VAC output, horsepower ratings from 1/4 to 2 hp. GS2 Series offers 1/2 to 10 hp, 230 VAC/480 VAC input, 230 VAC/480 VAC output. The GS series was designed to be programmed by the average technician. GS AC drives can be easily networked with our extensive family of DirectLOGIC programmable controllers. Each GS AC drive has a built-in MODBUS RTU, RS-485 communications port that can be configured to communicate in two simple steps.
AutomationDirect offers GSoft configuration software for its GS line of AC drives. GSoft allows the drives to be connected to a PC to create, edit, or upload/download drive configurations, archive or store multiple configurations on the PC, trend drive operation parameters, tune drive PID loops, view drive faults, and print schematic representations of drive configurations. GSoft software is priced at $50.
AutomationDirect offers Hitachi SJ100 series variable frequency drives, available in 230 V and 460 V class units from 1/4 to 10 horsepower. The drives offer an integrated potentiometer and programming keypad for local parameter configuration, two control modes (a 16-stage preset speed mode, or remote frequency control via an external analog input), PID control, and sensorless vector control. SJ100 pricing starts at $227 for the 1/4 hp model. AutomationDirect also offers a complete Windows-based drive configuration package, including the software, which programs all Hitachi drives for $185.
Also offered is the SJ300 full-featured flux vector drive, available in 230 V and 460 V class units from 1/2 to 30 horsepower. The drives can be configured for either open- or closed-loop control. A regenerative stop feature allows the drive to perform a controlled stop with the remaining motor bus energy after a power loss. Multi-motor tuning and control in the sensorless vector control mode allows the drive to loadshare among motors of the same horsepower range. SJ300 pricing starts at $446 for the 230 V 1/2 hp model or starting at $709 for the 460 V at 1 hp.
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