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Until the 1960s, the only satisfactory way of obtaining the variable-voltage d.c.
supply needed for speed control of an industrial d.c. motor was to generate it with a
d.c. generator. The generator was driven at fixed speed by an induction motor, and
the field of the generator was varied in order to vary the generated voltage. For a
brief period in the 1950s these ‘Ward Leonard’ sets were superseded by
gridcontrolled mercury arc rectifiers, but these were soon replaced by thyristor
converters which offered cheaper first cost, higher efficiency (typically over 95%),
smaller size, reduced maintenance and faster response to changes in set speed. The
disadvantages of rectified supplies are that the waveforms are not pure d.c., that the
overload capacity of the converter is very limited, and that a single converter is not
inherently capable of regeneration.
Though no longer pre-eminent, study of the d.c. drive is valuable for two reasons:
• The structure and operation of the d.c. drive are reflected in almost all other drives,
and lessons learned from the study of the d.c. drive therefore have close
parallels in other types.
• Under constant-flux conditions the behavior is governed by a relatively simple set of
linear equations, so predicting both steady-state and transient behavior is not difficult.
When we turn to the successors of the d.c. drive, notably the induction motor drive,
we will find that things are much more complex, and that in order to overcome the
poor transient behavior, the control strategies adopted are based on emulating the
inherent characteristics of the d.c. drive. The first and major part of this chapter is
devoted to thyristor-fed drives, after which we will look briefly at chopper-fed drives
that are used mainly in medium and small sizes, and finally turn our attention to small
servo-type drives.

DC Drives Basic Operation Principles

DC drives vary the speed of DC motors with greater efficiency & speed regulation
than resistor control circuits. Since the speed of a DC motor is directly proportional to
armature voltage & inversely proportional to field current, either armature voltage or
field current can be used to control speed. To change the direction of rotation of a DC
motor, either the armature polarity can be reversed, or the field polarity can be
The block diagram of a DC drive system made up of a DC motor & an electronic drive
controller. The shunt motor is constructed with armature & field windings. A common
classification of DC motors is by the type of field excitation winding. Shunt wound DC
motors are the most commonly used type for adjustable-speed control. In most
instances the shunt field winding is excited, as shown, with a constant-level voltage
from the controller. The SCR (silicon controller rectifier), also known as thyristor, of
the power conversion section converts the fixed-voltage alternating current (AC) of
the power source to an adjustable-voltage, controlled direct current (DC) output
which is applied to the armature of a DC motor. Speed control is achieved by
regulating the armature voltage to the motor. Motor speed is directly proportional to
the voltage applied to the armature.
The main function of a DC drive is to convert the fixed applied AC voltage into a
variable rectified DC voltage.

SCR switching semiconductors provide a convenient method of accomplishing this.

They provide a controllable power output by phase angle control. The firing angle, or
point in time where the SCR is triggered into conduction, is synchronized with the
phase rotation of the AC power source. The amount of rectified DC voltage is
controlled by timing the input pulse current to the gate. Applying gate current near the
beginning of the sine-wave cycle results in a higher aver age voltage applied to the
motor armature. Gate current applied later in the cycle results in a lower average DC
output voltage. The effect is similar to a very high speed switch, capable of being
turned on & off at an infinite number of points within each half-cycle. This occurs at a
rate of 60 times a second on a 60-Hz line, to deliver a precise amount of power to the