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Analysis and Reduction of Acoustic Noise from a Brushless DC Drive

Mark Brackley, Student Member, IEEE, and Charles Pollock, Member, IEEE
AbstractIt has been found that stator excitation in brushless dc drives can excite mechanical resonances in the motor and, thus, produce acoustic noise in a similar way to switched reluctance drives. A technique has been developed to alter the commutation pattern of a brushless dc motor to avoid exciting and reinforcing these mechanical resonances producing a significant reduction in pure tone acoustic noise which is emitted during mechanical resonance. The origin of the vibration and acoustic noise is explained and the theory of discrete frequency noise reduction described in this paper. The method proposed for quieter control of the brushless dc motor could be achieved at a very low cost. Index TermsAcoustic noise, brushless machines, motor drives.

I. INTRODUCTION COUSTIC noise levels in domestic and industrial applicationsls are increasingly attracting attention from manufacturers and customers alike. Legislation is becoming more stringent on acceptable acoustic noise levels and low acoustic noise is a major marketing point for many products. The brushless dc motor is a well-established drive used in many applications. Although acoustic noise is not considered to be an issue with this type of drive, this paper will show that it is vulnerable to similar acoustic noise problems as the switched reluctance drive [1], [2], particularly when commutated with square-wave current. Little work has been done on acoustic noise in brushless dc motors, but schemes aimed at smoothing drive current to prevent torque ripple and vibration are the subject of patents [3], [4]. This paper will describe research efforts carried out to examine the electrical excitation of mechanical resonances in a brushless dc motor, and the acoustic noise this produces. It also describes a low-cost solution which has been implemented on a three-phase brushless dc motor. A three-phase brushless dc motor (with 8 permanent-magnet rotor poles and 12 stator teeth) driving a centrifugal boiler fan has been analyzed. The motor is operated by a standard six-switch three-phase inverter with control chip, Allegro 2936. Three Hall-effect sensors located inside the stator of the motor

Fig. 1. Schematic diagram of three-phase brushless dc motor and inverter.

provide position information to the inverter which commutates the motor. As the speed range is swept, there are several speeds at which mechanical resonances are excited, causing the system to emit pure tone acoustic noise. Fig. 1 shows a schematic of the arrangement. II. EXPERIMENTAL ANALYSIS OF ACOUSTIC NOISE AND VIBRATION A. Magnetic Shaker Test A magnetic shaker was coupled to various components of the motor and boiler fan (while assembled) to measure their natural resonant frequencies. This would help to identify or eliminate components as being the source of the acoustic noise. The magnetic shaker was excited with a variable-frequency sine wave via an amplifier. Measurements of surface vibration were made and frequencies that exhibit a high gain in vibration amplitude were noted. These frequencies are harmonics of the resonant frequency, which provides the most amplitude gain. Previous work

Paper IPCSD 9993, presented at the 1999 Industry Applications Society Annual Meeting, Phoenix, AZ, October 37, and approved for publication in the IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON INDUSTRY APPLICATIONS by the Industrial Drives Committee of the IEEE Industry Applications Society. Manuscript submitted for review June 1, 1999 and released for publication December 22, 1999. This work was supported by the industrial companies of the Centre for Advanced Electronically Controlled Drives, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and the U.K. Department of Trade and Industry. M. Brackley is with the School of Engineering, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, U.K. (e-mail: C. Pollock is with the Department of Engineering, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 7RH, U.K. (e-mail: Publisher Item Identifier S 0093-9994(00)03174-1.

00939994/00$10.00 2000 IEEE




Fig. 3. Phase current and vibration measured on motor endcap surface.

Fig. 2. Current pulse, vibration of endcap, and frequency power spectrum during static test.

has shown that the resonance of fan housings, due to their enclosure-like structure, can be a major source of acoustic noise in this type of assembly [5]. Table I shows the resonant frequencies of some of the components of the unit, measured while assembled. B. Static Testing Static impulse tests were also performed to characterize the resonant properties of the assembly. Using a two-switch drive circuit and a signal generator, current was pulsed through the phase windings of the motor in a ramp upramp down style. The phase windings of the motor are star connected and various phase pairs were excited, all producing very similar results. Fig. 2 shows the resulting vibration of the endcap of the motor when current was pulsed through two phases. Vibration was measured with an accelerometer at various points around the motor and was found to be greatest in magnitude at the center of the endcap of the motor. The two dominant natural frequencies of vibration are 480 and 1440 Hz. Other frequencies of significance were found to be 960, 640, and 360 Hz. C. Dynamic Tests Using the six-switch inverter, the motor was accelerated to the point at which the most significant acoustic noise was produced by the mechanical resonance. Measurements of vibration were made around the assembly by placing an accelerometer on a target surface. It was found that the vibration measured on the surface of the motor endcap was greater in magnitude than that measured on the side of the lamination stack, the fan housing, and the fixing bracket. Fig. 3 shows the current in one phase,

Fig. 4. Current waveform, in one of the three phase windings, with sensor signals.

vibration, and frequency power spectrum of the vibration measured axially on the motor endcap when resonating. A microphone measuring the overall acoustic noise output confirmed that the dominant frequencies of vibration, measured with an accelerometer, corresponded to the dominant frequencies in the acoustic noise profile. Analysis of the frequency power spectrum in Fig. 3 revealed that these frequencies were 480, 960, and 1440 Hz. Unlike results from previous work [5], the resonant frequency of the fan housing was not significant in the acoustic noise profile. The authors concluded that the source of the resonance and acoustic noise was vibration of the rotor assembly causing the endcap of the motor to flex. III. EXPERIMENTAL ANALYSIS OF MOTOR COMMUTATION In an attempt to establish whether the commutation of the motor was exciting the natural mechanical resonance described above, the motor commutation was analyzed at a speed of 1200 r/min corresponding to maximum resonant vibration amplitude. The three-phase inverter uses three position sensor signals to generate the necessary currents in the motor windings for rotation. Fig. 4 shows the current in one of the motor phases, and the three sensor signals it was derived from, when the motor is running at 1200 r/min. Each phase current cycle is produced by the inverter which uses the three position sensor signals as triggers. The current



waveform has three levels: positive, zero, and negative. At each position sensor edge there is a change in level of the current in two of the three phases to give motor phase currents which are displaced electrically by 120 . At a motor speed of 1200 r/min, the frequency of the current in each phase was found to be 80 Hz. The frequency of the individual position sensor signals is also 80 Hz. Electronically excited acoustic noise is generally caused by force pulses which are created by changes in the rate of change of flux. Considering the currents in all phases of this motor, it was discovered that, for every complete current cycle, there are six changes in current level across the three phases, triggered by every position sensor commutation edge. These current changes generate sudden changes in the attractive and repulsive forces between rotor and stator, which happen at regular intervals within the commutation. This corresponds to six changes in the rate of change of flux. The conclusion of this is that the commutation of the motor at 1200 r/min generates regular force pulses at a frequency of 480 Hz. IV. CORRELATION BETWEEN MOTOR COMMUTATION AND ACOUSTIC NOISE Analysis of the mechanical characteristics of the fan assembly (see Section II-A) revealed the natural mechanical resonant frequency of the rotor assembly and motor endcap was 480 Hz. Analysis of the motor commutation showed that, when the system was in mechanical resonance, the speed of the motor was 1200 r/min. At this speed, the frequency of the force pulses generated by changing current levels was 480 Hz, coinciding with the natural mechanical resonant frequency. The authors concluded that the resonance and associated acoustic noise was being caused by the pattern of motor currents. The commutation of the motor was exciting the mechanical resonance of the rotor assembly when the frequency of the force pulses (produced by commutation) matched the mechanical resonant frequency, or some multiple of it. At speeds where the forcing frequency does not match the mechanical resonant frequency, the resonance is not excited and the acoustic noise profile does not contain resonant frequencies of large magnitudes. Having concluded the cause of the acoustic noise, the authors proceeded to investigate how the excitation of the mechanical resonance could be avoided. If the motor currents produced by the inverter are exciting a mechanical resonance, causing acoustic noise, it should be possible to alter the current makeup to stop the production of acoustic noise. V. METHOD

Fig. 5. Adding time delay to the simulated position sensor signals.

frequency. Having identified the resonant frequency of 480 Hz, which has a period of 2.08 ms, a scheme was produced to shift some of the commutation edges by a time equal to 1.04 mshalf of one period of the mechanical resonance. This was done by introducing this time delay to the falling edge of various combinations of the three position sensor signals before they reach the inverter. VI. APPLICATION OF DISCRETE FREQEUNCY NOISE REDUCTION TECHNIQUE TO THE BRUSHLESS DC MOTOR A. Experimental Procedure It was found that because the rotor was vibrating due to rotor resonance, the quality of the sensor signals was degraded. To investigate the effects of the noise reduction technique, the motor was controlled in an open-loop fashion with the three sensor signals being simulated by an electronic circuit with their frequency controlled by a signal generator. For experimental purposes, the time delay was added to the falling edge of the position sensor signals by diverting the signals through a digital counter circuit. The modified signals were then fed to the inverter where the phase currents were switched appropriately. This is shown in Fig. 5. Adding the fixed time delay to various combinations of sensor signals was investigated to examine the effects on vibration and acoustic noise. Fig. 6 shows a schematic representation of how the sensor signals were altered, by analyzing the time between consecutive edges. Fig. 6(a) shows the unaltered case and Fig. 6(b)(d) shows the effect of adding the delay to the falling edges of one, two, and all three sensor signals, respectively. Let time t be the time for one period of the resonant frequency (2.08 ms). B. Results Measurements of vibration of the endcap of the motor were made with an accelerometer while the delay schemes were implemented using the techniques described above. It was found that there were significant changes in the vibrations produced at 1200 r/min, the resonant speed. Fig. 7(a) shows the three sensor signals controlling commutation, the vibration of the motor endcap, and a frequency power spectrum of the vibration measured at a motor speed of 1200 r/min. The pulsing nature of the vibration, which is a strong indication of a natural resonance, has a period consistent with each revolution of the motor. C. Analysis of Results Comparing the acceleration displayed in Fig. 7(b)(d) with Fig. 7(a) clearly shows that delaying the falling edges of any combination of the sensor signals reduces the resonant vibration. However, it is also apparent that the most significant decrease in resonant vibration and acoustic noise is achieved by


Prior art has shown that motor commutation produces force pulses which generate vibration and acoustic noise at resonant frequencies [1], [2]. It also shows that this effect can be reduced by creating two force pulses per commutation, rather than one, with a controlled time delay between the pulses. The proposal for the three-phase brushless dc system is to alter the time between commutations such that the pattern of the force pulses counteracts the excitation of the mechanical resonance, reducing the acoustic noise generated at the resonant







Fig. 6. (a) Unaltered sensor signals. (b) One sensor signal with falling edge delayed. (c) Two sensor signals with falling edge delayed. (d) All three sensor signals with falling edge delayed.

delaying the falling edges of any two of the sensor signals as shown in Fig. 7(c). Analysis of the frequency power spectrum of the acceleration produced with unaltered sensor signals, highlights the resonant frequencies at 480 and 1440 Hz. It has been shown that the resonance is excited by the regular commutation pattern shown in Fig. 6(a). When only one signal was altered, the commutation was changed, but it still contained many commutations at interval t. Hence, the magnitude of the vibration at these frequencies was slightly reduced, but the resonance could still be detected audibly. Delaying the falling edges of two of the signals introduced a more varied commutation pattern producing the most significant reduction in resonant vibration and, perhaps more importantly, stopped the pure tone acoustic noise at the resonant frequencies. Fig. 7(c) clearly shows a large reduction in the power spectrum at these frequencies. When the delay was added to the falling edges of all three signals, the commutation interval t appeared to be eliminated, but another regular pattern was set up which introduced another vibration component that excited harmonics at 240-Hz intervals. This produced

vibration and acoustic noise at 480, 640, 960, 1200, and 1440 Hz. VII. IMPLEMENTATION OF DISCRETE FREQUENCY NOISE REDUCTION FOR INDUSTRY For experimental purposes, the time delay was added to the falling edge of the sensor signals by diverting the signals through a digital counter circuit. However, this would be too costly in practice and is unnecessary. With cost and volume production in mind, the authors propose a simple additional stage to the motor control circuitry which would provide the delay on the falling edge of each signal. Fig. 8 shows a schematic for a stage that could be implemented between the position sensor output and the inverter. The stage consists of four components. The resistor and capacitor provide an RC decay time constant for a falling edge. The diode allows a rising edge to bypass the RC leg and be unaffected. The inverting Schmitt trigger gates ensure the sensor signal leaves the stage with clean, straight edges before reaching the brushless dc inverter. Values for resistance R and capacitance C can be altered to target a particular resonant frequency.







Fig. 7. (a) Unaltered sensor signals. (b) One altered sensor signal. (c) Two altered sensor signals. (d) Three altered sensor signals.

Fig. 8. Schematic layout of additional stage providing a delay on the falling edges of a position sensor signal.

The limitations of this approach are that the target resonant frequency must be established first. It is also recognized that the frequency may vary slightly among a batch of products. However, previous work has shown that a similar technique was effective at reducing acoustic noise with up to a 10% variation in resonant frequency [1]. There is also a limited range of frequencies that can be targeted, depending on the speed of the motor. VIII. CONCLUSION This paper has shown that the brushless dc motor, particularly when commutated with square-wave current, is suscep-

tible to mechanical resonances and acoustic noise which are excited by motor currents. The authors present a detailed electrical and mechanical analysis of a three-phase brushless dc motor and fan unit. It was found that the force pulses, produced by changing current levels in the motor windings, excite a mechanical rotor resonance. This happened at a particular speed where the frequency of the force pulses, and their regular pattern, coincided with the mechanical resonant frequency of the rotor assembly. This resulted in a large increase in vibration and pure tone acoustic noise at the resonant frequency and its harmonics. This proved the correlation between motor excitation frequency, mechanical resonant frequency, and the frequency at which vibration and acoustic noise is emitted. An investigation into reducing the excitation of the mechanical resonance is described. This was achieved by delaying the falling edges of combinations of sensor signals, thereby altering the motor commutation pattern and, therefore, the pattern of the force pulses. An effective commutation pattern for reducing vibration at resonance has been highlighted. The paper goes on to describe a simple low-cost implementation of the noise-reduction technique. A simple additional stage between the position sensor signals and the inverter is proposed. This is to delay the falling edges of the sensor signals by a time equal to one-half of a period of the mechanical resonant fre-



quency. Adding this stage to two of the three sensor signals will ensure the commutation pattern is altered to best avoid exciting the resonance. Overall, the paper shows that the brushless dc motor can generate discrete frequency acoustic noise in much the same way as a switched reluctance motor. It also shows how a technique, originally designed to reduce pure tone acoustic noise from the stator of a switched reluctance motor, has been adapted and applied to the brushless dc motor, resulting in the complete elimination of acoustic noise at the resonant frequency and its harmonics. REFERENCES
[1] C. Wu and C. Pollock, Analysis and reduction of vibration and acoustic noise in the switched reluctance drive, IEEE Trans. Ind. Applicat., vol. 31, pp. 9198, Jan./Feb. 1995. [2] A. Michaelides and C. Pollock, Reduction of noise and vibration in SRM: New aspects, in Conf. Rec. IEEE-IAS 31st Annu. Meeting, San Diego, CA, 1996, pp. 771778. [3] R. E. Kier, Method and apparatus for noise-quietening in brushless DC motors, U.K. Patent 8 527 959, Nov. 1985. [4] T. I. Minoo and M. G. Nishinomiya, Brushless DC motor, U.S. Patent 5 144 209, Sept. 1992. [5] M. Brackley and C. Pollock, Electronic cancellation of acoustic noise in a fan system driven by a switched reluctance motor, in Proc. EPE 8th European Conf. Power Electronics and Applications, Lausanne, Switzerland, CDROM, 1999.

Mark Brackley (S99) received the B.Eng. (Hons.) degree in electrical engineering in 1998 from the University of Warwick, Coventry, U.K., where he is currently working toward the Ph.D. degree. His research work is conducted through the Centre for Advanced Electronically Controlled Drives, University of Leicester, Leicester, U.K. His field of interest is acoustic noise in brushless motors.

Charles Pollock (S89M89) received the B.Sc. (Eng.) degree from Imperial College, University of London, London, U.K., and the Ph.D. degree from Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh, U.K., in 1985 and 1989, respectively. He is currently a Professor of Electrical Energy Conversion at the University of Leicester, Leicester, U.K., and is Director of the Centre for Advanced Electronically Controlled Drives, also based at the university. His research interests are switched reluctance, brushless dc, and hybrid stepping motors and drives.