7 Benefits of Using Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) to Control Your Crane or Hoist

Mining, Petroleum and Gas | Aerospace | Manufacturing | Crane Systems | Safety and Training | By Casey Cummins | Feb 18, 2020

Magnetek-VFDs.jpgVariable frequency drives, or VFDs, offer significant advantages when it comes to controlling cranes and hoists. VFDs provide flexible but reliable control over the motor's speed and performance by varying the frequency and voltage supplied to the electric motor. Let's explore the benefits of incorporating VFDs into your hoist or crane operations and how they can revolutionize your material handling processes.

What are the benefits of using a VFD to control your hoist or crane?

  1. Greater Speed Adjustment: With VFD controls, you have the flexibility to choose from multiple speeds, allowing you to customize your hoist controls to match the specific requirements of your application. This versatility enables you to optimize the speed for different lifting tasks and load conditions, enhancing efficiency and productivity.
  2. Improved Load Control: Positioning a load using a single-speed hoist can lead to shock loading or load swings. However, with a VFD, you can achieve smooth operation by gradually slowing down the load. Variable frequency drives enable controlled acceleration and deceleration, minimizing load swings during traverse motions. This precise load control reduces the risk of accidents and ensures a safer working environment.
  3. Duty Cycles: VFDs can be precisely matched with a braking resistor based on the duty cycle of the motion. This allows for reliable and uninterrupted operation, even in high-duty-cycle applications. Additionally, regenerative drives that are not dependent on the duty cycle can be utilized, further enhancing efficiency. By maximizing duty cycle capabilities, VFDs increase productivity and minimize downtime.
  4. Efficiency: One of the significant advantages of VFDs is their energy-saving capabilities. Unlike contactors and soft-starters, VFDs consume only the needed power, resulting in energy efficiency. By optimizing motor speed and reducing unnecessary energy consumption, VFDs contribute to cost savings and sustainability. In fact, implementing VFDs in your crane or hoist operations can lead to substantial long-term energy savings.
  5. Increased Hoist Life: Certain variable frequency drives provide thermal overload and overcurrent protection for the hoist motor, extending its lifespan. Additionally, VFDs employ a ramp-down-to-stop braking method instead of relying solely on brake shoes. The brake is primarily used for parking and emergencies, which reduces wear and tear and extends the lifespan of the brake system. By prolonging the life of critical components, VFDs reduce maintenance costs and enhance equipment reliability.
  6. Regenerative Energy: The motor generates regenerative energy when decelerating or lowering a hoist. This energy can be harnessed and transformed into heat using a braking resistor or redirected back to the power source, resulting in energy savings. AC regenerative drives efficiently redistribute this energy, preventing waste that occurs when it is converted to heat with a braking resistor. By harnessing regenerative energy, VFDs promote sustainability and reduce operational costs.
  7. Digital Diagnostics: VFDs have advanced diagnostic capabilities, facilitating maintenance and troubleshooting. Plus, you can easily monitor and analyze the performance of your hoist or crane. These diagnostics capabilities can be accessed on the drive itself or remotely, allowing for quick identification and resolution of any issues. You can minimize downtime, optimize maintenance schedules, and ensure optimal performance by leveraging digital diagnostics.

VFDs can easily be integrated with Columbus McKinnon electric chain and wire rope hoists, including the new Yale® YK® and Shaw-Box® SK™ open loop vector configurations, to ensure safe operation at peak performance.

Integrating Automation Solutions
Automation solutions like Intelli-Connect® Mobile offer seamless integration with VFDs, further enhancing the efficiency and convenience of your material handling processes. By combining the power of VFDs with Intelli-Connect Mobile, you can unlock a range of benefits:

  1. Quick Troubleshooting and Recovery: Intelli-Connect Mobile enables proactive monitoring and scheduling of maintenance activities. In the event of a fault or other operational issues, the mobile app helps reduce recovery time, saving money from lost production. You can swiftly identify and address any potential issues with real-time insights and notifications, ensuring minimal downtime.
  2. Information at Your Fingertips: Connecting Magnetek VFDs with Intelli-Connect Mobile gives you instant access to comprehensive operational data on your smartphone or tablet. This information allows you to monitor your systems’ operations, track equipment utilization, and make data-driven decisions. The app also provides access to user manuals and installation guides, making it easier to reference important documentation on the go.
  3. Improved Safety: Intelli-Connect Mobile enhances safety by enabling monitoring and troubleshooting directly from the plant floor. With the mobile app, there's no need to physically climb up on a crane or hoist to access status information. This eliminates potentially hazardous situations and ensures operators can monitor and conveniently manage the equipment.

Incorporating VFDs into your crane or hoist operations offers numerous benefits, including more significant speed adjustment, improved load control, increased hoist life, and energy efficiency. When combined with automation solutions like Intelli-Connect Mobile, the advantages of VFDs are further amplified, allowing for quick troubleshooting, real-time data access, and enhanced safety. By embracing these technologies, you can optimize the performance, efficiency, and safety of your material handling processes, leading to increased productivity and cost savings. Stay connected to your equipment, gain valuable insights, and take proactive measures to ensure optimal performance at all times.


Lodestar VS with Intelli-Connect Mobile

The CM Lodestar VS is now available with Intelli-Connect™ Mobile technology. Intelli-Connect Mobile enables quick and easy programming, maintenance, monitoring, and troubleshooting of the Lodestar – all from a tablet or smartphone.

How does it work? Using the Intelli-Connect Mobile app, you can wirelessly access detailed information right from the plant floor, without the need to attach a programming cable. Intelli-Connect Mobile is available as an option on all new Lodestar VS units or in a retrofit kit for units already in service.

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Casey Cummins

Casey Cummins is a Magnetek Controls Product Manager at Columbus McKinnon Corporation. He started with the company in 2011. Prior to moving into a management roll, Casey worked on embedded firmware development and electrical design. Also, Casey actively serves on the AIST crane committee. Outside of engineering life, he is fascinated by the modern space race and astrophysics, and also has a goal of hiking all the US national parks.

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