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Motor Sizing Made Easy

Sizing an AC step motor correctly for an application is critical for many reasons. AC motors tend to run hot when they're loaded too heavily or too lightly. A step motor that's too big or too small inevitably has vibration or stalling problems. A motor with too small a rotor inertia won't be able to get the load moving. Thankfully, following a few simple steps makes selecting and sizing a motor the first time easier than you might think. When looking for a motor, you'll need to define values for both torque and speed. Once these have been established, it's easy to look at either a torque/speed curve or motor specs and choose a motor. But how are the torque and speed values determined? Torque has two components: constant torque (Tc) and acceleration torque (TA). Constant torque -- usually due to friction and gravity and always opposing the motor --is what the motor must always overcome. Fortunately, it's easy to measure: Place a torque wrench on the load and measure the torque required to get the load moving. You can also calculate it: The force due to friction is uW, where u is the coefficient of friction and W is the loa's weight. Once this force (or the force due to gravity) is determined, it's simple to convert it to torque through some radius. For example, a leadscrew's constant torque is given in Equation 1. F (1) 2Pe where F P e Force due to friction or gravity Pitch in threads per inch Efficiency where Jload W P g Load inertia ( Weight of load + table (oz) Pitch (threads/in) Gravity constant (386 in/sec2) Calculating system inertia isn't very difficult because most systems can be idealized into shapes that have simple formulae for calculating the inertia. Let's start with the inertia calculations

While screws with high thread counts help us with heavy loads, they kill our high speeds. When sizing screw applications, you'll have to calculate two inertias. The first, of course, is the inertia caused by the nut or table and the load being moved. The second, less obvious inertia is that of the screw itself. As seen in Equations 3 and 4, the screw's inertia often dominates the system. Lpr4 Jscrew = 2g where Jscrew L p r g Screw inertia ( Screw length (in) Screw density (oz/in3) Screw radius (in) Gravity constant (386 in/sec2) (3)

W Jload = G

1 2P


The acceleration component is a bit harder to determine because it's very hard to simulate the acceleration profile and hold a torque wrench on the load at the same time. Because of this, we have to use arithmetic. Acceleration torque is a function of the acceleration rate (A) and the load inertia (j), as shown in Equation 2. TA = J X A (2)

As seen, a high thread count (e.g., five per inch or so) reduces Jload. In cases such as this, the screw inertia becomes very important --it can't be left out! You can also see that as the thread count increases, the top speed decreases. So while we can move heavy loads with screws, we may not be able to move them very fast.


Conveyors are essentially the opposite of screws. While we can move loads very quickly, we can't move large loads. More often than not, we must insert some sort of gear ratio to get the load inertia down to a more manageable level. (Gears reduce the load inertia by the square of the ratio, or J Jref = Ratio2 Jref the reflected inertia, is what the motor actually sees. Gear ratios help move larger loads by reducing inertia and increasing torque by a factor of the ratio; however, they also reduce the motor speed by a factor of the ratio.) The formulae should speak for themselves. Wr2 Jpulley = 2g where Jpulley W r g Pulley inertia ( Pulley weight (oz) Pulley radius (in) Gravity constant (386 in/sec2) Wr2 Jload = g where Jload W r g Load inertia ( Pulley weight (oz) Screw radius (in) Gravity constant (386 in/sec2) (6) (5)

r e

Screw radius (in) Efficiency Okay, we've calculated the system inertia. N ow it's time to calculate TA for the different motors. To convert from to ox.in2, multiply by 386; to convert from oz.in2 to, divide by 386.

AC Motors
For AC motors, there's a simple formula. If we plug in the numbers, we can determine TA. JN TA = 9.6t where TA J N t Acceleration torque ( Inertia ( Motor speed (rpm) Acceleration time (sec) (8)

We calculate Ta, add it to Tc, multiply by a safety factor (usually 1.3 -1.7), and get our required torque value (Treq). Then we simply look in a motor catalog to find the specs for a motor with a starting torque greater than Treq and a rated torque greater than Tc.

Brushless DC Motors
Brushless motors aren't difficult to size. However, you must be careful not to exceed the maximum permissible inertia load given in the catalog. To determine TA, we use Equation 9: J Ta = 9.5 where TA J VF V0 t Acceleration torque ( Inertia ( Final velocity (rpm) Initial velocity (rpm) Acceleration time (sec) t VF - V0 (9)

Looking at Equation 6, you can see that even if we have a light load(say, 10 pounds) and a pulley diameter of 2 inches, the motor sees an inertia of 0.414, which is quite large. In this case, we'd probably recommend a gear ratio of 3:1 or so. Equation 7 gives Tc for a conveyor application: Fr2 Tc = (7) e where TC F Constant torque ( Force (oz)--usually friction

Step Motors
Step motors are a bit more difficult. First, we have to determine the acceleration rate. All load motion, whether rotary or linear, must be converted into motor motion. WE must

figure out how many revolutions or degrees the motor must rotate. An because we know how much time we have to make the motion, we can determine the acceleration rate (A) and the peak motor speed (V peak). One thing you should keep in mind is the rotor inertia. Generally, the ratio of load inertia to rotor inertia should be less than 10:1. For short, quick, high-performance moves, this range should be 1:1 to 3:1. Then, depending on the system inertia and move parameters, motor choice will be based on the rotor inertias given in a motor catalog. Once the load inertia is calculated, choose a motor based on the rotor inertia and see if it has enough torque to make the move. Because step motors are excellent for position control, most often their moves are of the form move X distance in Y time. There are two types of motion profiles: trapezoidal and triangular. Typically, triangular profiles are used for moves of less than a second's duration, while trapezoidal profiles are for longer moves. If we use either profile, its very easy to determine A an Vpeak from the following formulae. For triangular profiles: 4X A = t2 2X Vpeak = t For trapezoidal profiles, (11) (10)

4.5X A = t2 1.5X Vpeak = t (13) (12)

X t

Total motor movement Acceleration time (sec)

= 2 radians. Thus, a move of 2.5 revs in 0.75 second equates to a move of 15.7 radians in 0.75 second. Similarly, a screw with four thread/inch, requiring a move of 3.2 inches, would be (3.2) (4) (2) = 80.4 radians. So, with A calculated, multiply it by Jref plus JR to get TA, or TA = A(Jref + JR) Now that we've determined TA, we'll add it to TC and multiply by a safety factor of about 1.5 (don't forget to use consistent units in the calculations). Armed with both Ttot and Vpeak we can now look at a torque/speed curve to find a motor adequate for the job. You'll want to be careful not to select one with more torque than is required. Because excessive torque can cause vibration problems, the remedy requires lowering the current, which in turn lowers the torque. Simple, huh? Although these procedures may seem a bit overwhelming, these formulae should help in motor sizing.

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