Changing the world one fan at a time.

Changing the world one fan at a time.

You may have noticed that I work for ebm-papst UK Ltd, but do you know what we do? Or how we are changing the world? This week, I want to explain the most exciting development since the electric motor: the EC Fan.

Ebm-papst is a market leader in supplying fans to the whole world. That’s everything from fans in microwaves and ovens to fans in computers and IT equipment right the way up to massive fans keeping data centres and supermarkets cool. However, it’s the development of the EC fan that has made a massive impact on the world.

I’d like to point out from the beginning that ebm-papst is not the only manufacturer of EC fans, but we were the first! The EC fan is important because it is much more efficient than standard electric fans. A typical AC fan uses magnetic fields to spin the rotor around.  However, this induced energy into the rotor generates slippage. That is to say the motor will not spin at the same frequency as the applied AC signal, hence a loss of efficiency.

The EC Fan, however, uses a power-supply to generate a high-voltage DC voltage, normally some 400 volts. The electronics then uses this buffer of energy to drive what is in effect a high voltage DC motor with a permanent magnet as its rotor. This means no induction and hence no losses, making EC fans much more efficient than normal AC motors and fans.

The impact on the world is now significant. Currently there are lots of regulations going through that are stating that we must help save the planet. To do this, these regulations are banning the use of electric motors with poor efficiency. Over time these limits will get harder and harder to pass. EC fans, however, currently meet regulation changes that are planed out till 2050.

The design change also means one other important thing – speed control. Slowing down anything will use less energy so slowing down a fan will do this also. AC fans need big smelly inverters or other speed limiting controls to do this. EC fans however need none of this because the electronics to run the fan are already built in.  All you need to do is tell it to go slower via a voltage control input or over a communication link like RS485.

EC fans are already saving hundreds of megawatts: that’s like switching off the power to the UK. So this new technology is changing the world, and ebm-papst and all the other manufactures are making this happen.

So for feedback this week I want to know what you do. What are you working on that’s affecting and shaping the world in some small way, or just affecting what we do each day?

7 comments

Pretty cool post, your job sounds interesting! I had no idea that fans accounted for such a large amount of electricity consumption. I would tell you what I do, but I don’t do anything, Just an A-level student, I hadn’t realised any of the writers were UK based, which is nice.
Will.

I design high-speed digital serial interfaces. This can be USB3 or the interface between a hard-drive and whatever it’s attached to. Although we try to be as power efficient as possible in our designs, nipping a few milliwatts here and a few milliwatts there, what truly affects people’s day to day lives is the increasing speeds of these interfaces. Most hard drives today run at 3Gb/s. Next generation will run at 6Gb/s. USB3 runs at 5Gb/s. With the explosion of data nowadays, we all require faster methods to retrieve such data, whether it’s on your own PC or over the internet.

Minor correction to your post: I believe the UK has 80GW of electric generating capacity, rather than hundreds of MW.

They’re exactly the same as the 12V case fans, just bigger. It’s nothing more than a PM synchronous machine with an integrated drive, just like any recent high quality case fan. To be fair, he is a software guy, not a machines guy. It’s right they’re more efficient than a crappy induction machine, but we’ll see how the PM machine business fares with the current mess China is making of the Neodymium market.

I’m an Embeeded Hardware Engineer designing controls to go along side these fans (includes software too).

Correct these are big DC fans like the compacts you see in PC’s, but up to kWatts and 900mm OD. PM tech is growing and is more expencive than stock AC, however law will say you can’t buy AC and the payback on EC fan in under a year in some cases.

In the compact market, cheap PM DC fans can be got for under $1. But these are known as noisy and fail quicker than more expencive better quolity fans – bearing are one of the biggest weak point in a fan so plastic bearing don’t last long. You get what you pay for, as with everthing.

I currently work for a European renewable energy research centre as a chemical engineer. The area of my focus is bringing inventions we make or altering process to industry (oil gas, plastics, biofuel) to save energy. The goal is to reduce the resources used in energy consumption, reduce CO2 emissions and invariably increase the industry profits. Colleagues of mine work in soar power, wind power, biomass etc. So I work on reducing energy consumption and they work on energy production (for the most part).

Are we saving the world; on the surface yes but in reality not yet/no. Many of the renewable technologies are prohibitively expensive requiring large subsidies from governments and mandates for purchasing renewable energies. Much improvement and research of these technologies is needed before they can displace oil, gas and coal. The no part is because a track of research maynot be sucessful. One thing is for sure; without a paradigm shift, we will be paying more for energy in the future.

I’m an embedded software engineer and I help USB go much further than the standard intended. My company builds products that can extend USB up to several km for use in industrial and educational spaces. We also have products which extend video with USB so were changing the way classrooms operate and making places safer to work by allowing control of equipment to be away from said equipment.

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