There is an interesting problem with applying electric motors that is a constant source of difficulty, the nature of peak power versus continuous power. The problem is that few systems operate at a statistical average power demand. Frequently, this causes equipment designers to oversize the motor for the application. At the same time, however, this can put the motor in a very low efficiency operating range.
So what’s the right solution? Right sizing. Yes, just like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, not too big, not too small, but just right.
There are some great DOE publications on motor sixing that can be very helpful on the AC motor side, so make sure to give those a look. But the implications of how to deal with varying loads are complex, each requirement having its own unique conditions that need to be considered. Is an underpowered application actually safer? Sometimes, yes. I recently noticed that a particular orbital sander had been designed so that if the unit became momentarily overloaded, it stalled. Perfectly safe. In fact, this design is to be preferred because it prevents accidentally damaging a work piece by burying the sander in the wood and removing too much material. Who’d have thought of it? Certainly not Tool Time Tim. More Power!
In fact, most of us view more as better. More power means more production. Or does it. In an increasingly energy conscious community, more power means more cost. And that’s really what its all about. The value of the motor is not just in the purchase price, but also in the operating cost. Especially if the motor is expected to run for 8 years, 24/7. (That’s what the life expectancy of large AC motors is)
There’s another trick to the power requirement problem. How much time is spent at full load and how much time is spent at average power, or, what is the duty cycle? If the system is starting and stopping frequently it puts different constraints on the motor. If the system is typically starting only once an hour, then we can consider the thermal duty cycle of the motor. The momentary peak power requirement is insignificant and the vendor can usually tell from their modeling and testing of their products how much impact the peak current will have on the motor’s average temperature.
After all, its Thermodynamics 101 in the final analysis. Every energy transformation produces heat as a byproduct. How much heat a given system can tolerate is the key to its operating life. In electric motors, the key values are the insulation system’s temperature rating, usually in the range of 150 to 180 C and in the case of steppers, brushless dc and permanent magnet dc motors, the magnet’s ability to resist high temperature and high coercive magnetic fields that can be generated in the motor. Both sets of limits are generally well considered by suppliers when electrically controller motors are shipped as motor/drive combinations. This can get a little tricky when pairing motors from one vendor with controls from another vendor.