AC Induction Motor Design (6)

8. Electric Motor Insulation
With all this discussion about motor operation, losses, torque curves, and inrush, it is only fitting to review the thermal properties of electrical insulation. In general, when an electric motor operates, it develops heat as a by-product. It is necessary for the insulation that prevents current from going to ground, or conductors to short, to withstand these operating temperatures, as well as mechanical stresses, for a reasonable motor life. Insulation life can be determined as the length of time at temperature. On average, the
thermal life of motor insulation is halved for every increase of operating temperature by
10 degrees centigrade (or doubled, with temperature reduction).

There are certain temperature limitations for each insulation class (Table 3) which can be used to determine thermal life of electric motors. Additionally, the number of starts a motor sees will also affect the motor insulation life. These can be found as mechanical stresses and as a result of starting surges.
When a motor starts, there is a high current surge (as previously described). In the case of Design B motors, this averages between 500 to 800% of the nameplate current. There is also a tremendous amount of heat developed within the rotor as the rotor current and frequency is, initially, very high. This heat also develops within the stator windings.
In addition to the heat developed due to startup, there is one major mechanical stress during startup. As the surge occurs in the windings, they flex inwards towards the rotor. This causes stress to the insulation at the points on the windings that flex (usually at the point where the windings leave the slots). Both of these mean there are a limited number of starts per hour (Figure 4). These limits are general, the motor manufacturer must be contacted ( or it will be in their literature)for actual number of allowable starts per hour. this table also assumes a Design B motor driving a low inertia drive at rated voltage and frequency. Stress on the motor can be reduced, increasing the number of starts per hour, when using some type of “soft start” mechanism (autotransformer, part-winding, electronic soft-start, etc.).


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