Versatility through software – developing drives for customer processes

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

We live in a digital world where almost every single device is controlled and its functionality is customized by software. And this has also been the case with AC drives for over 20 years.

In 1995, Vacon launched the world’s first AC-drive generation capable of software tailoring – the CX generation. This tailoring was made possible using software based on the IEC 1131-3 standard – the first universal programming language standard for process control. Later renamed to IEC 61131-3, this standard defines programming languages used for programmable logic controller (PLC) programming – known today as application software in our drives. Simply put, every VACON® drive has a built-in PLC. This effectively allows AC drives to take over the parts of the PLC’s responsibilities that are directly connected to the operation of the drive, and perform programmable actions according to process-level phenomenon.

In addition to developing our own software applications for general and ‘not-so-general’ uses, custom application software has also been offered to customers. They can either identify their specific needs and we develop the application software for them, or they can handle the application software development completely independently. Both are extremely beneficial for customers as it allows them to customize the operation of the drives specifically for their own needs rather than adapting their processes to suit the drive’s functionality.

Customer process first

This same ‘customer process first’ way of thinking is very much alive in the product development functions in Danfoss Drives. It has given us more possibilities and the freedom to develop surprising new solutions. The same hardware, which is designed and built to be very capable from the get-go, can be used for a variety of different applications just by tailoring the software to the process in question. Applications range from airport HVAC systems to Grid Converters maintaining the electric grid in cruise ships, and from lifts in skyscrapers to DC/DC converters attached to backup batteries that keep factories up and running through electric grid faults. While the external hardware, such as filters, differs between the different use cases, with same hardware, software creates variation capability and adds value.

With increasingly sophisticated and demanding customer needs and the impact of the Internet of Things, the future trend in AC-drive programmability is moving toward even more customizable solutions. These trends make the ability to fit AC drives to the processes more challenging. And they also bring data handling, intelligence and learning as totally new fields of AC-drive software functionalities.

We are heading towards AC drives that can order their own spare parts and predict process-level malfunctions and maintenance needs before possible costly breakdowns. All this requires the development of the products for the customer processes, not the other way around.

Check back regularly with us here at for regular updates on the best ways to ensure that your investments in AC drives are always fulfilling your process requirements. And let us know in the comments how we can use our extensive application expertise to help you.

In the meantime, you can read more about our range of software downloads that ensure your drive is up to date with all the latest features here.

Author: Timo Alho, Product Manager, Applications, Danfoss Drives