Variable Frequency Drives

What is a VFD?

A Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) is a type of motor controller that drives an electric motor by varying the frequency and voltage supplied to the electric motor. Other names for a VFD are variable speed drive, adjustable speed drive, adjustable frequency drive, AC drive, microdrive, and inverter.

Frequency (or hertz) is directly related to the motor’s speed (RPMs). In other words, the faster the frequency, the faster the RPMs go. If an application does not require an electric motor to run at full speed, the VFD can be used to ramp down the frequency and voltage to meet the requirements of the electric motor’s load. As the application’s motor speed requirements change, the VFD can simply turn up or down the motor speed to meet the speed requirement.

How does a Variable Frequency Drive work?

The first stage of a Variable Frequency AC Drive, or VFD, is the Converter. The converter is comprised of six diodes, which are similar to check valves used in plumbing systems. They allow current to flow in only one direction; the direction shown by the arrow in the diode symbol. For example, whenever A-phase voltage (voltage is similar to pressure in plumbing systems) is more positive than B or C phase voltages, then that diode will open and allow current to flow. When B-phase becomes more positive than A-phase, then the B-phase diode will open and the A-phase diode will close. The same is true for the 3 diodes on the negative side of the bus. Thus, we get six current “pulses” as each diode opens and closes. This is called a “six-pulse VFD”, which is the standard configuration for current Variable Frequency Drives.