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Siemens' discovery of the dynamo-electric principle and its development of the first electric motors helped machine production achieve breakthrough and sped up industrial production processes. Today, the company supplies drives for almost every application.
In 1879, Werner von Siemens invented the first electric railway with a power supply provided via the tracks. That same year, he had the idea for an electric elevator. In a letter to his brother Carl, he said he believed the dynamo machine that had been used as a motor in the train was also "very well suited" to drive elevators and turntables at rail yards.
The pioneer of electric engineering soon had a chance to put his idea into practice. In April 1880, the organizers of the Mannheim Pfalzgau Trade & Agricultural Exhibition asked him whether Siemens could build an "electric elevator" – the world's first – for their show. Siemens accepted the order, but when the work took longer than planned, that July the exhibition had to open without its biggest attraction. It was not until the end of August that the Mannheim elevator could be installed. The motor was housed underneath the platform, and pushed the elevator up via a gear system.
The public took a massive interest in the elevator: more than 8,000 people rode the new conveyance between September and mid-November, to enjoy a bird's-eye view of Mannheim.
In 1891, the first electric rotating crane went into operation on the Petersenkai wharf at the port in Hamburg. The crane had been built by the Hamburg firm Nagel & Kaemp, but the electrical equipment came from Siemens & Halske. It had a load-lifting capacity of two and a half metric tons and could hoist loads at a meter per second. The extremely efficient drive recovered electrical energy as heavy loads were being lowered and stored it in an accumulator battery. After some initial problems, the unit worked well for more than three decades.
Another milestone arrived in 1894. At the new Riijnhaven harbor in Rotterdam, Siemens worked with the same partner to build six cranes, followed by seven more. The centrally operated electric cranes replaced the steam-driven units that had been in common use until then. By 1900, 21 cranes were already in operation, with lifting capacities of up to four metric tons. The success was so complete that every crane needed for the further expansion of the harbor was given an electric drive.
Siemens built the world's first reversing electric drive in 1906/07, for a blooming train at the Georgsmarienhütte steel mill near Osnabrück. The motor had a maximum output of 6,550 kilowatts (kW).
The double-armature reversing motor served to roll out steel ingots weighing some five metric tons. It had two armatures that generated torques of up to about 100 meter-tonnes (mt) on a common shaft at a maximum of 60 rpm for each rolling run. Because the motor was subdivided into two parts, the armature diameter could be reduced substantially and so could its centrifugal mass. This permitted the rapid reversals of motor direction that were needed for rolling and reduced the required energy.
Control was provided via a flywheel controller composed of four identical DC motors, each coupled to a fast, heavy flywheel. Unlike steam rolling mills, which had to provide a contrary flow of steam to brake the system, the train with the electric drive could be braked almost without loss. The motor could change direction as much as 28 times a minute – significantly more often than was needed in regular operation.
Originally, motors for machine tools and production machinery were controlled centrally. It was not until the 1990s, analogously to the entire automation process, that controls were gradually distributed or decentralized. "Smart" drives, suited for complex tasks in particular, were developed for the purpose. One milestone was the Simodrive Posmo A positioning drive, presented by Siemens in 1999. Its control was integrated directly into the motor itself.
This made it possible to set up "electronic shafts" with no further mechanisms. And individual motors could "communicate" with each other, for example to coordinate the various motors' speeds in a paper mill. That reduced wear and permitted faster production speeds – important factors in doing business sustainably.
In 2008, Siemens pushed the start button on the world's first ore mill with a "Frozen Charge Shaker" function, at the Paracatu gold mine run in Brazil by the Canada-based Kinross Gold Corporation. This solution, integrated into the gearless Simine Mill GD mill drive, made it possible to selectively release charge that had clumped onto the mill's interior wall, thus keeping the mill from being damaged if the charge were to drop uncontrolled and shortening maintenance times considerably. At a production value of several thousand US dollars per hour, this avoided production losses of several million dollars at each maintenance interval.
At maintenance time, the cylindrical mills used in mining operations had to be shut down for several hours or even days. During that time, the charge remaining inside the mill could consolidate and clump to the mill wall, becoming what is known as a "frozen charge." When the mill was restarted, there was a risk that the frozen charge would not release from the mill wall right away and would first be lifted by the mill’s action and then drop from a considerable height. The result could be severe damage to the mill. Using the Frozen Charge Shaker integrated into the Simine Mill GD, such deposits could be released by a suitable movement of the mill.
Siemens introduced a new dimension in solving drive problems in 2013, with the Integrated Drive System (IDS). The new system was founded on a triple technological integration. Horizontal integration meant that the drive system's components were optimally adjusted to one another at the plant for their intended task, drawing on Siemens' comprehensive portfolio of gear units, clutches, motors and inverters.
Vertical integration – meaning integrating the drive system into the architecture of the relevant industrial production process – was provided by incorporating the IDS into Siemens' TIA architecture, enabling maximum communication and control.
Finally, life cycle integration was the third dimension of the IDS. Siemens offered all-inclusive solutions all along the life cycle of a production or process automation system. Whether in design, planning, engineering, commissioning and operation, or modern industry services, these made it possible to leverage extensive optimization potential.
Antapaccay and Las Bambas, in 2012/13, were the first copper mines in Peru to be equipped with gearless drives. Two years later, Siemens delivered the world's largest direct-drive conveyor system for the mine in Cuajone, Peru, owned by a Mexican mining company, Southern Copper Corporation (SCC). This was a belt system that replaced a rail line to carry ore from the mine to the processing plant.
In addition to conventional drives, Siemens especially used integrated drive systems (IDS) that incorporated direct drives. Because they had fewer parts vulnerable to wear – like gears, clutches and motor bearings – these drives offered high levels of availability. Direct drives also made it possible to use a continuous conveyor belt, thus eliminating the need for transfer stations and reducing downtime, maintenance and costs.
The belt system had three individual segments equipped with a total of 5 integrated drive systems. The largest belt used two direct drives at 6,000 kilowatts (kW) each. The two smaller feeder and takeoff belts were run by two low-voltage motors at 500 kW and one medium-voltage motor at 1,200 kW.