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Cost-effectively transition to brushless DC motors

Posted: 07 Jan 2016 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:brushless DC motors? BLDC? permanent magnet synchronous motors? PMSM? HVAC?

The various choices of semiconductor integration are opening up an ever-increasing array of applications for distributed intelligent small drive solutions based on synchronous motors. These include brushless DC motors (BLDC), permanent magnet synchronous motors (PMSM) and stepper motors. Because of their technical advantages and increased efficiency, these types of motors are replacing brush-type motors in many existing applications. Automobiles are a great example.

Typically automotive components must support low system cost, small, light and reliable, and show a high degree of efficiency. It is also important to reduce exhaust emissions and lower the fuel consumption. The need for drive concepts that work with a wide range of motors, and the extreme demands made on efficiency, system design and network ing options have major impact upon the actuator electronics.

The BLDC motor market
There are plenty of BLDC manufacturers in the US. Most companies are still focused on motor technology like brush- type DC motors, stepper motors, etc. But many of them are establishing the BLDC motor as a basis for new product developments. Even though there are many BLDC motor manufacturers in place, especially for the tiny BLDC motors, there are not so many integrated control electronic solutions on the market. Companies capable to manufacture BLDC motors with integrated intelligent electronics inside, together with a low cost approach are still not easy to find.

The level of adoption of BLDC motor technology is increasing. Many auto- motive functions such as fuel or water pumps, HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning), curve light, head-lamp levelling, and many others, are converting from brush-type DC motor or step- per motor technology to BLDC motor technology. Yes, this is not a general proof that all brush DC or stepper motors will convert to BLDC motor technology. But the main argument that the electronic to control the motor is too expensive compared to the price of the motor itself is becoming less valid every day. Furthermore, the BLDC motor advantages can significantly enhance other system properties (refer to the table 1). Hence it can be foreseen an evolution to intelligent motion control.

Brushless DC motor advantage
BLDC motors have several advantages over competing motor technologies, summarised in table 1.

Table 1: Summary of brushless DC motor advantages.

Problems of the transition?
When looking at motion control systems including brush-type DC motors (BDC), it is obvious, that control is less complex compared to a BLDC motor. In simple words: you have only to apply a voltage to the motor and it starts to move. Engineers with little experience in BLDC motor control system design often fear that they will have difficulty converting to BLDC motor technology, even though they know about the advantages. Complex electronics and the programming of such a system are thought to be a barrier. Also the higher system cost due to the electronic commutation is often considered as a showstopper.

However, the transition from BDC to BLDC is not necessarily difficult. By using the Micronas HVC 4223F single-chip solution the electronic circuit can be quite simple.

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