Crane applications built into the drives provide OEMs and users with market-ready control solutions

Safe crane operation and control can now be simplified by using flexible IEC 61131-3 programming and certified safety functions placed inside the drives

Crane manufacturers and end users today have the ability to apply a variety of new control strategies based on variable speed drives with powerful built-in crane control applications. Making the best choice in control strategies can give important advantages for both safety and control operations.

Safety and performance

Without doubt, safety and performance are the two most important requirements of any industrial crane, whether this concerns an indoor electric overhead traveling (EOT) crane or an outdoor construction tower crane. Under all circumstances, the equipment must perform safely and precisely, without any risk of a load drop or swaying.

OEMs have historically achieved crane control by custom-made programming via a PLC. However, this approach means that the OEM must essentially do everything by themselves which requires high manpower, dedicated in-house skills and continuity over a long time span, often making it very costly.

New standardized platform offers wide flexibility

A modern alternative to this approach can be to use ready-made crane applications that provide the necessary crane control via variable speed drives. ABB has recently developed a unique platform that allows crane control to be done via a variety of routes, all of which utilize the power of the drives. These alternatives include:

  1. Drive-based crane applications done either by
    •  Ready-made ABB crane software inside the drives or;
    •  Do-it-yourself solutions with IEC61131-3 programming inside the drives or;
  2. PLC-based control, where the crane application is running in the PLC controller which communicates via gateways with the drive. Here too the programming language is the same IEC61131-3 as in new ACS880 industrial drives.

The new drive-based crane control solutions are not only powerful, but also cost effective and simplified because key crane-specific functions are accomplished right in the drive. Smart control features built into the drive can include master/follower functionality, electrical shaft and anti-sway, and advanced mechanical brake control.

On top of this, certified safety functions to meet the latest machine directives are also directly available in the drive. All of these control and safety applications can be used in a wide variety of configurations and combinations, to meet each individual need.

Clear benefits for crane manufacturer or end-user

“Our new crane solutions give a unique combination of safety, flexibility and standardization for the crane control market,” explains Mikael Holmberg, ABB’s market manager for crane drives. “Certified safety functionality which is delivered via the drives is a big new advantage. In addition, ability to use the same IEC programming language, whether the control is going through the drives or a PLC, is also an important benefit giving standardization between the drives and PLC.”

Mikael Holmberg, Winch and Crane Market Manager at ABB Drives

Extended built-in functions

Additional value for indoor crane control is delivered with a dedicated link between drives D2D (drive to drive) for master/follower configuration, where two or more motors are driving the same gearbox. Sensorless anti-sway control is also now standard on ACS880 crane drives, meaning hook swinging is reduced for greater effective indoor crane use. Both trolley and long travel drives can be used with anti-sway in the x-y directions and load swing compensations can be made at same time for both directions.

Software benefits are also realized on outdoor tower cranes where a new slew-control algorithm ensures that the jib is turning around the boom without oscillation. This feature generates both better safety and productivity on construction work sites.

Certified safety features

Safety in crane operation has a high priority for the ACS880 drive which is specifically built for indoor cranes, and for outdoor tower cranes. Both of these drive families have inbuilt safe torque off (STO), bringing the equipment to rest in a safe state following any upset. In addition, the ACS880 has an optional safety functions module that can activate numerous other safety functions. Certified safety operation for the cranes is also possible externally via ABB’s AC500-S safety PLC.

The important benefit for OEMs is that the certified safety functionality needed to meet national and regional machine directives, such as IEC 60204-32, can be achieved directly via the drive. This offers numerous advantages compared to traditional external safety wiring solutions.

The customer always has a choice

All of these features, options and alternatives mean that OEM customers get a wide range of options to find the best crane control solution for their specific equipment and application.

“We always try to offer our customers a variety of choices, without locking them into one singular solution,” continues Mikael. “For example, as outlined above they can choose a drive-based control with our software, or they can use their own programming software, or they can use an external PLC. ABB offers a wide selection of flexibility, but it is all built on standardized ABB configurations and IEC 61131-3 based application programming software for easy compatibility.”

Remote supervision of the crane, which is a growing trend in the industry, allows the crane drives and PLC to be connected for possible remote support and diagnostics. Ethernet-based modules are available for this purpose. In addition, the ACS880 drives include a memory unit for quick replacement or updating without the need of a PC.

Other advantages that ABB offers crane manufacturers include offices around the globe for rapid worldwide support and service. Customers are also assured of continuity with respect to the latest software and functionality of new generation equipment as it is introduced. The very broad ABB product portfolio also means there are both AC and DC drives available, as well as motors that can be integrated into the crane systems.

These latest combinations of technology give crane OEMs new benefits regarding safety, flexibility and productivity.

Memory unit makes commissioning fast as it lets you install drive parameters without the need for a PC.

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