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Electrical Drives

14.1 Juha Pyrhönen, LUT, Department of Electrical Engineering

14.

MOTOR BEARING CURRENTS IN INVERTER DRIVE

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14.1 Bearing Damage Caused by Electrical Current - Failure Mechanism

2

14.2 Non-Circulating Bearing Currents

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14.3 Potential Rise Caused by the Motor Parasitic Capacitances

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14.4 Circulating Bearing Currents

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14.5 Reduction of Bearing Currents

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14.5.1

Grounding

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14.5.2

Output Choke

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14.5.3

Insulation of the Bearing

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14.5.4

Shaft Grounding

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14.5.5

Galvanic Separation of the Power Tool and the Motor Shaft

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14.5.6

Using Conductive Bearing Lubricant

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14.5.7

Ceramic Ball Bearings

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References

9

14. MOTOR BEARING CURRENTS IN INVERTER DRIVE

Bearing currents have been a debated subject for the past hundred years. Bearing currents are thus not a phenomenon brought by the modern power electronics, but shaft voltages and bearing currents caused by them were investigated for instance by F. Punga and W. Hess in their article “Eine Er- scheinung an Wechsel- und Drehstromgeneratoren” in Elektrotechnik und Maschinenbau already in 1907; also P. Alger and H. Samson lectured on “Shaft currents in electric machines” at the A.I.R.E Conference in 1924, etc. Those days, the source to the problems were not power electronics appli- cations, but chiefly the inaccuracies involved in the manufacture of the motor. Some reasons for bearing currents were for instance discharges through insulations, as well as shaft voltages induced by the dissymmetries of magnetic structures.

In addition to the improvement in operating and control properties, the development of power elec- tronics brought also bearing currents that occurred in the motor systems in a completely new way; however, the arising problem could not first be connected to power electronics. The most important sources for bearing currents in the present inverter drives are the common-mode voltage fed by the PWM-type inverter to the motor, a high switching frequency, poor cabling between the inverter and motor, and the parasitic capacitances of the windings. Figure 14.1 illustrates a failure of the race of a ball bearing caused by bearing currents (seven times enlarged image).

caused by bearing currents (seven times enlarged image). Figure 14.1 Damaged race of a ball bearing;

Figure 14.1 Damaged race of a ball bearing; 7 times enlarged (Haring ABB).

Electrical Drives

14.2 Juha Pyrhönen, LUT, Department of Electrical Engineering

An U.S. company Shaft Grounding Systems analyzed 1150 AC motors, 1000 of which were in- verter drives, and the rest operated direct-on-line (Boyanton 1995). The analysis showed that 25 % of the motors fed by inverter had a bearing failure of some degree already after 18 months of opera- tion. Further, 65 % of the motors that had been operating for more than 18 months, the average be- ing 2 years, had some kind of a bearing failure. Only one per cent of the DOL motors had expe- rienced a bearing failure. However, the survey does not explain the reasons for determining the bearing failures as caused by bearing current in particular, and not for instance by manufacturing or mounting faults. Furthermore, the company itself manufactures devices for shaft grounding.

14.1 Bearing Damage Caused by Electrical Current - Failure Mechanism

There are several occurrence mechanisms for bearing currents; however, the current flow through the bearing is identical for different bearing current types. A ball bearing is comprised of two roll- ing surfaces (races), between which a lubricated metal ball rotates. When the voltage is switched on between these races, while the machine or device is either non-rotating or in a slow motion, there is a low-resistance contact between the rolling surfaces through the ball, and thus the current circuit is closed, and a small current flows in the circuit.

As the rotation speed increases, the lubrication film separates the ball from the race, and thus the impedance between the two races starts to increase. However, the current flow will continue in the circuit, if the voltage is high enough (Skibinski 1996). According to Skibinski, voltage withstanding of a cold bearing to the pulsating voltage generated by a PWM inverter is about 35 V, whereas the corresponding value for a warm bearing is ca. 610 V. For sinusoidal voltage, the corresponding value for a warm bearing is of the scale of 0.21 V (Skibinski 1997).

Voltage withstanding is directly proportional to the quality and temperature of the lubricant, as well as on the surface roughness of different parts of the bearing. When the electric circuit breaks, two capacitors are created between the ball and the bearing races, the charge of which starts to increase. The equivalent circuit of the bearing is illustrated in Figure 14.2. When the voltage level between the two ball-bearing cups increases high enough, the capacitors are discharged. The discharge cur- rent flows through a very small contact surface, which implies a high current density. The phe- nomenon resembles electric machining EDM , and causes for instance fluting in the bearing race as shown in Figure 14.1.

shaft
shaft

Figure 14.2. Bearing and its equivalent circuit

R u

C i rpm Z R k C iv
C i
rpm
Z
R k
C iv

C i

R s

Electrical Drives

14.3 Juha Pyrhönen, LUT, Department of Electrical Engineering

Notations in the figure:

C i

C iv is the capacitance Fbetween the races of the ball bearing

R

R

R

Z is the nonlinear impedance  of the ball bearing

is the capacitance Fbetween the ball and the race in the ball bearing

is the resistance  of the ball of the ball bearing is the resistance  of the inner race of the ball bearing is the resistance  of the outer race of the ball bearing

k

s

u

The nonlinear impedance Z changes as a function of speed, varying from the low resistance of the non-rotating machine to the impedance of megaohms at the rated speed.

Bearing currents may cause an outage of the rotated equipment already after a few weeks’ opera- tion, or, on the other hand, it may take several years before a bearing failure is created. If the rotat- ing machine rotates at constant speed, there occur flutes that are transverse to the direction of mo- tion of the ball, since the dielectric breakdowns occur at regular intervals. If the rotation speed of the motor varies, the above mentioned fluting does not take place, but the ball race corrodes in the entire length of the raceway.

The function of the inverter is to switch the phase conductors timely either to the positive or to the negative DC voltage. In the commonly used PWM technology, the positions of the power switches are changed for instance by comparing the three-phase sine wave of the desired frequency to the higher-frequency triangle wave. By investigating for instance the potential of the star point (N point) to the ground in the case of Figure 14.3, we see that the potential of the star point is other than zero.

If for instance the phases U and V are connected to U dc , and the phase W to 0, the windings of the phases U and V will be connected in parallel, and thus their impedance is halved. As a result, the voltage of the N point is thus 2/3U dc . In Figure 14.3, the zero level of the voltage is selected to be the potential of the negative DC voltage. We see thus that the potential of the N point pulsates at the switching frequency of the power switches as shown in Figure 14.4.

If the motor winding is connected in delta, the analysis becomes more complicated; however, the potential of the winding relative to the frame can be shown to vary between 0 and U dc . If all the phases are connected to U dc , the whole winding is in the potential of U dc , and correspondingly, when connected to 0, there is no potential difference.

Bearing currents can be divided into two categories: circulating and non-circulating bearing cur- rents. The damages caused by both current types are similar, but their elimination or reduction is implemented by different methods.

V U N W Figure 14.3 Star-connected motor winding.
V
U
N
W
Figure
14.3
Star-connected
motor
winding.
U DC 0 0 t
U DC
0 0
t

Figure 14.4 Typical common-mode voltage produced by PWM.

Electrical Drives

14.4 Juha Pyrhönen, LUT, Department of Electrical Engineering

14.2 Non-Circulating Bearing Currents

Non-circulating currents are created by an increase in the potential differences between stator wind- ings and the rotor, between stator winding and the frame, and between the frame and ground.

The function of the supply cable is to transfer the power fed by the inverter to the motor with a suf- ficiently low power loss. According to the EMC regulations, the cable may not cause disturbances to the environment, and furthermore, the cable should be adequately immune to the disturbances from the environment. The electrical safety regulations also set limits to the cross-sections of the phase and protective conductors. In order for the cable between the inverter and motor not to pro- duce disturbances to the environment, the cable has to be shielded with a well-conductive material; this holds for both AC and DC drives.

If asymmetric supply cables are employed against the recommendations of frequency converter manufacturers (cf. Figure 14.5), a notably high voltage will be induced to the PE conductor.

armouring L1 L1 L1 PE L2 PE L2 PE L2 L3 L3 L3
armouring
L1
L1
L1
PE
L2
PE
L2
PE
L2
L3
L3
L3

Figure 14.5 Asymmetric supply cables

The induced voltage is caused by the combined-mode voltage fed by the inverter as well as by the voltages of the phase conductors including very high du/dt values. For instance, the rise time of fast IGBT switches may be below 100 ns, which implies that the spectrum includes frequencies above 10 MHz. When connecting for instance a PE conductor and the armouring to the inverter frame, the potential of the motor relative to ground increases. If the armouring is a too-large-impedance path for the high-frequency current, the current starts to flow also through the bearings of the motor and the power tool to ground as shown in Figure 14.6.

Electrical Drives

14.5 Juha Pyrhönen, LUT, Department of Electrical Engineering

Inverter Motor Driven machine I arm Z arm Motor Frame Z pe I pe I
Inverter
Motor
Driven machine
I arm
Z arm
Motor Frame
Z pe
I pe
I l
Z l
rpm
C l
Bearing
R l
Rotor
Shaft
C l
Z l
rpm
Bearing
I l
R l

Figure 14.6 Bearing current path when using an inappropriate motor cable

Notations of Figure 14.6

C l

I arm is the current flowing in the armouring of the cable A

I l

I pe

R l

is the capacitance between the ball and the ball-bearing cups F

is the current flowing through the bearings Ais the current flowing in the PE conductor Ais the resistance of the ball-bearing cup 

V pe is the voltage induced to the PE conductor V

Z l

is the non-linear impedance of the ball-bearing cup 

Bearing current may also easily flow through the bearings of the power tool. This happens often for instance in paper machines, roller mill drives, and in other drives including solid metal structures. In roller mill drives, an additional problem is caused by the constantly varying shaft grounding im- pedance, as the machined workpiece connects and disconnects the shafts of the motor.

Using a lubricant with better insulating capacity in the bearings of the power tool than in the motor bearings may destroy the bearings of the power tool. The reason for this is that the voltage with- standing of the lubricant with better insulating capacity is higher, and consequently, dielectric breakdown results in a higher current density, which puts stresses particularly on the power tool. This is slightly paradoxical, since the bearings that are exposed to large bearing currents, will have a longer lifetime when using a lubricant with poorer quality than vice versa. Figure 14.6 shows that

I pe = I arm + I l .

(14.1)

If the armouring provides a sufficiently low-impedance return path for I pe , then I pe I arm .

There are notable differences also between symmetrical cables. Analyses have shown that there may be a 13-fold difference in the voltage induced by the supply cable to the armouring when com- paring poor and good supply cables. Correspondingly, 56-fold differences in the noise conduction from cable to cable were reported between the cables; these results show clearly the significance of cabling in the occurrence of bearing currents (Bentley 1996).

Electrical Drives

14.6 Juha Pyrhönen, LUT, Department of Electrical Engineering

14.3 Potential Rise Caused by the Motor Parasitic Capacitances

Due to the high-frequency components of the voltage fed to the motor, the traditional motor model, which is comprised of concentrated resistances and inductances, has to be left aside. As there is a high-frequency voltage acting in the stator windings, a current starts to flow in the parasitic capacit- ances between the motor frame and the stator winding, and between the stator winding and the ro- tor. Due to the symmetry of the motor, the parasitic capacitances that occur in every electrical mo- tor, can be considered to be distributed evenly in the whole stator winding, and their values increase considerably together with the motor size. In the case of differential mode voltage, corresponding currents start to flow also through the parasitic capacitances between the stator phase windings.

The common-mode voltage tends to raise both the potential of the motor frame relative to ground, and the potential of the rotor relative to the frame. Figure 14.7 illustrates an approximate equivalent circuit of the motor for a voltage including high-frequency components. A simplified equivalent circuit of the bearing is included in the illustration to show the closure of the rotor circuit (Chen

1996a). Motor frame bearing R u C krk C i rpm Z R k C
1996a).
Motor frame
bearing
R u
C krk
C i
rpm
Z
R k
C iv
C i
R s
stator
C krt
rotor

Figure 14.7 Circuit of the non-circulating currents

Notations in Figure 14.7:

C krk is the parasitic capacitance between the stator winding and the motor frame C krt is the parasitic capacitance between the stator winding and the rotor

C l

is the capacitance between the ball and ball-bearing cups

R l

is the resistance of the ball-bearing cup

Z l

is the non-linear impedance of the ball-bearing cup

Bearing current may also in this case flow through the power tool, as presented above.

14.4 Circulating Bearing Currents

If the current flowing in and out from the stator winding are equal, the sum of the magnetic flux produced by the winding becomes zero. As an effect of the parasitic capacitances, the incoming and outgoing currents are not equal, as can be seen in Figure 14.8. I + nI indicates the current flowing

Electrical Drives

14.7 Juha Pyrhönen, LUT, Department of Electrical Engineering

into the motor winding a, and I - nI the current going out through a’. At each parasitic capacitance, a coupling current of magnitude I n leaves the phase winding. When investigating the situation at section AA, we see that the sum current is other than zero.

I  I I-  I I+ I  I I I-2I I+2 I A
I
 I
I-  I
I+ I
 I
I
I-2I
I+2 I
A
A
 I
 I
I-(n-2) I
 I
I-(n-1)  I
 I
I-n  I
I+(n-2) I
I
I+(n-1)  I
I
I+n  I

a'
a

Figure 14.8 Winding current in one loop of one phase

When investigating the cross-section of Figure 14.9 from the location A-A of Figure 14.8, now in- cluding all the three phases, we notice a net flux linkage surrounding the phase windings; it is not cancelled due to the aforementioned current unbalance (Chen 1996b).

 a' a
a'
a

Figure 14.9 The fluxes produced by the winding due to the combined-mode voltage in a three-phase machine at the cross-section A-A of Figure 14.8.

According to Faraday’s induction law, the change in the magnetic flux density produces an electric field circulating it (Pyrhönen 1996). This creates a voltage difference between the N and D ends of

Electrical Drives

14.8 Juha Pyrhönen, LUT, Department of Electrical Engineering

the shaft. The only circuit that could cancel the varying magnetic field, closes according to Figure 14.10 through both bearings, the shaft, and the frame of the motor.



Figure 14.10. Circuit of a circulating bearing current

A high-frequency current flowing in the stator windings induces a voltage to the motor shaft, the

magnitude of which may be even 20 times the voltage of a motor operating direct-on-line.

14.5 Reduction of Bearing Currents

Bearing currents cannot be completely eliminated in inverter drives; however, they can be reduced

to a level at which they are no longer harmful to the operation. There are several alternatives to this,

and the best results are achieved by a combination of several alternatives

14.5.1 Grounding

The rise in the potential of the motor frame relative to ground can be prevented or reduced only by proper cabling. To provide efficient protection against radio-frequency interferences, in addition to armouring, the cable has to be equipped with a well-conductive radiation shield without “holes”, as

in the armouring. The couplings of the armouring and the shield to the frame have to be very low-

inductive; this is achieved best by using a conductive sleeve around the conductor. The conductive sleeve has to be galvanically connected to the cable shielding, around the entire cable, and the sleeve itself has to be fixed by a conductive pad to the supply or consuming device. Finally, ar- mouring and shielding are wired up to the PE bus as directly as possible. This way, a Faraday cage

is created all the way from the inverter to the consuming device.

14.5.2 Output Choke

The purpose of the output choke is to decrease the du/dt values occurring in the output voltage, thereby eliminating the highest frequencies of the spectrum of the output voltage. This significantly reduces the currents flowing through the parasitic capacitances of the motor, and consequently, the current flowing to and from the winding are closer to balance, that is, the shaft voltage of the motor decreases. Furthermore, the voltages induced to the motor cable decrease. An output choke has thus effect on both circulating and non-circulating bearing currents. With more complicated couplings comprised of inductances and capacitances, the output voltage can be made to resemble almost pure sinewave, in which case the bearing currents approach the level of a DOL motor.

Recently, filters that suppress common-mode voltages in particular have been designed; with these filters, bearing currents can be reduced considerably. A lossy magnetic core mounted around phase

Electrical Drives

14.9 Juha Pyrhönen, LUT, Department of Electrical Engineering

conductors is also an efficient method to filter common-mode current, yet it produces significant losses.

14.5.3 Insulation of the Bearing

To eliminate non-circulating bearing current, both bearings should be insulated in order to prevent the closed-loop circuit. This, however, does not completely eliminate the problem, since a rise in the shaft potential easily leads in a bearing failure of the power tool. In the case of circulating bear- ing current, sheathing one of the bearings suffices to cut the circuit, however, there is still a slight chance that the insulated surface of the bearing creates quite a large capacitance together with the ball-bearing cup, and thus allows a current flow in spite of the insulation.

14.5.4 Shaft Grounding

The most efficient method to prevent a bearing failure in the motor is to mount brushes on the mo- tor shaft close to the bearings and to couple them low-inductively to the frame. This may sound somewhat peculiar, as the initial target was to eliminate brushes in the AC machine. However, as the brushes are in contact with a smooth shaft, and the current passing through the brushes is small, the carbon dust is not a problem either.

14.5.5 Galvanic Separation of the Power Tool and the Motor Shaft

If the bearing currents are detected to flow through the motor shaft to the power tool, these devices can be galvanically separated, thus breaking the circuit. However, finding an electrically insulating switch between the power tool and the motor may prove difficult.

14.5.6 Using Conductive Bearing Lubricant

When using conductive bearing lubricant, the bearing current can flow through the bearing without causing damages to the bearings. However, this has not been documented so far; Chen 5only mentions conductive bearing lubricant as an alternative to avoid shaft grounding with brushes.

14.5.7 Ceramic Ball Bearings

An almost certain way to avoid destruction of the ball bearings is to use bearings with ceramic balls. The drawbacks of these balls are poorer withstanding to forces and high price when compared with conventional ball bearings.

References

ABB Industry Oy. 1996. Grounding of the Drive System. [1]

Bentley, John M. 1996. Evaluation on Motor Power Cables for PWM AC Drives, IEEE Conference record of 1996 Pulp & Paper Industry Technical Conference. 2

Boyanton, Hugh. 1995. Bearing Damage Due To Electric Discharge, Shaft Grounding Systems, pp. 129. 3

Punga, F. and Hess, W. 1907. Eine Erscheinung an Wechsel- und Drehstromgeneratoren. Elektro- technik und Maschinenbau Vol. 25, pp. 615618.

Electrical Drives

14.10 Juha Pyrhönen, LUT, Department of Electrical Engineering

Pyrhönen, Juha. 1996. Sähkömagnetismin luentojen runko v:lle 1996 (Lecture notes in Electromag- netism 1996, in Finnish) 4

Shaotang, Chen. 1996a. Source of Induction Motor Bearing Currents Caused by PWM Inverters, IEEE Transactions on Energy Conversion, Vol. 11, no.1, pp. 2532. 5

Shaotang, Chen. 1996b. Circulating Type Motor Bearing Current in Inverter Drives, IEEE -IAS Annual Meeting 1996, Vol. 1., pp. 162167. 6

Skibinski, Gary. 1997. Bearing Currents and Their Relationship to PWM Drives, IEEE Transac- tions on Power Electronics, Vol. 12, no.2, pp. 243251. 7

Skibinski, Gary. 1996. Effect of PWM Inverters on AC Motor Bearing Currents and Shaft Voltages, IEEE Transactions on Industry Applications, Vol. 32, no.2, pp. 250259. 8