Since early 2017, Japanese electronics company Omron has focused on providing solutions for the agricultural industry’s demand for technology and automation with the SX series of compact inverters, which is well suited for pumping applications, namely irrigation, that require smooth flow and pressure control, explains Omron product manager Rohan Wulff.
“Farmers want more ease of use and more information out of their systems,” Wulff explains.
Omron’s IP54 SX compact inverters are robust and are able to handle harsh environments, and have dedicated control functions such as sleep mode, automatic pump rinsing and multiple pump control to ensure complete and precise control. The equipment is protected from pressure spikes and eliminates the risk of pressure surges or a water hammer through “gentle stops and starts”, Wulff maintains.
Further, the sleep function results in considerable saving in energy consumption as well as equipment wear, as the sleep function allows for the motor speed to be reduced to zero when the pressure does not require the motor to run.
The impellers of the pumps are kept clean by running the pump at full speed at start-up or at predetermined intervals, which maintains efficiencies.
The SX maintains a constant flow, or pressure, despite varying demands of using multiple pumps, and only the number of pumps required at any given time is used, saving energy. Up to seven drives are controlled by one SX inverter without any other external equipment.
The variable speed drive governs which pumps to start or stop, giving them all equal running time. Automatic switch-over to the next in line occurs if one pump or motor breaks down.
In addition, the ingress protection (IP) rating of SX ensures that the units are able to be mounted directly on the wall next to a specially designed control panel with built-in protection for the variable-frequency drive (VFD) Highlights Wulff.
“The farmer no longer needs to worry about cooling fans and cleaning filter cloths that used to clog with dust,” Wulff enthuses. These clogged filters would then restrict airflow and starve the VFD of much needed cooling meaning panel doors would often have to be left open to allow for extra cooling. This solves the cooling problem, however, with the door open, this allows for moisture and insect ingress, which was often the cause of premature failure of the VFD unit, hence the switch to the IP54 solution, he illustrates.
“At Omron we work with the farmers’ irrigation suppliers and with their design engineers,” Wulff adds. By combining expertise Omron is able to produce a completely optimised system that benefits the farmer, he notes.
There are currently 40 units in use in KwaZulu-Natal.