What’s So Special About 400 Hz In Aircraft Motion Control?

Across all types of industries and settings, most power sources and appliances will operate at a frequency of 50 or 60 Hz. But off the ground, the rotational rate of motors and other equipment is much higher. When motors are used in aircraft, on marine vessels, and in defense operations, the standard utility frequency or line frequency is 400 Hz. There are many reasons why this is the case.

400 Hz AC induction motors are used for aerospace applications because of a unique set of advantages. Their construction and operation work exceptionally well with the demands of aircraft and other high-performance settings.

What Makes AC Induction Motors Unique?

Induction motors convert alternating current (AC) into motion through electromagnetic induction. When electricity is introduced to the motor’s stator, its windings produce a rotating magnetic field that then causes the rotor to spin and produce torque. Induction motors typically have either a wound rotor or a squirrel-cage style rotor, as in the case of three-phase induction motors.

This type of construction makes these motors self-starting, low maintenance, and economical. They offer very reliable performance and can be easily applied to fixed-speed and variable frequency applications. In general, they are efficient, long-lasting, and versatile. And when made especially for aerospace applications, these advantages can, and must, be enhanced.

Why The High Frequency?

Increasing the frequency of induction motors from the standard 50 or 60 Hz to 400 Hz makes these devices compatible with the vast majority of electrical systems used on aircraft. High-frequency motors will also amount to a lower weight. This is because higher frequency, high-speed application means that more power can be gained from less equipment. In other words, fewer generators or alternators will be required to achieve and maintain the power required flight. Therefore, the aircraft’s overall weight is reduced.

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There are other reasons why 400 Hz is a favorable frequency for aircraft, marine vessels, and various defense applications, including early use of radar. More power for less weight and wattage can then be devoted to radar purposes and other operations. 400 Hz also does not easily accommodate long-distance power transmission, making it self-contained and suitable for settings where stealth is paramount or where inference from various critical equipment is active.

Where Else Are 400 Hz Motors Used?

High-frequency motors have their role to play on more than just planes, helicopters, boats, and submarines; 400 Hz induction motors are essential in server rooms, hand-held machinery, and various medical electronics. The United States military maintains standards for use of 400 Hz power in defense aircraft and related equipment under mil-spec requirement MIL-STD-704.

How Can 400 Hz Motors Be Acquired?

400 Hz motors for standard applications can be sourced from industrial suppliers and electric motor distributors. When these devices need to meet specialty, custom, or high-performance requirements, the best results can be gained from working directly with an induction motor manufacturer.

There are many advantages that come with this approach, including fewer limitations on the available components, materials, and parameters of the individual motor. When a motor is needed for a unique system or piece of equipment, the design and parts of its motion control element should reflect that. Independent motor manufacturers that serve the needs of OEMs can engineer a solution and usually at costs that are competitive with standard, off-the-shelf parts.

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