The use of variable-frequency drives (VFDs) to control AC motors has increased dramatically in recent years. In addition to their low operating cost and high performance, they save energy. Today, the challenge facing system designers and engineers is to minimize damage to AC motors from shaft current. From its first minute of operation, a VFD induces destructive voltages that build up on the motor shaft until they find discharge paths to the frame (ground). In most cases, the motor bearings present the path of least resistance. Once voltage is sufficient to overcome the resistance of the oil film layer in the bearing, shaft current discharges, causing electrical discharge machining (EDM) pits and fusion craters in the race wall and ball bearings. This phenomenon continues until the bearings become so severely pitted that fluting, excessive noise, and failure occur. Mitigation of this damage is possible through various strategies. Some are narrow in application, and most are costly. Many are not technically feasible. However, a new technology employs a circumferential ring of conductive micro fibers to discharge harmful currents and provide a low-cost solution to the problem.
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