Dynamic Braking

Calculating brake resistors sizes (part 1 of 2)

Dynamic braking resistors (DBR’s) for inverters and DC drive systems

A drive motor can also act as a generator. If the drive system is built so as to allow reverse power to flow then this power can be fed into a resistor, thus taking energy out of the system and causing whatever is driving the motor to slow down. The rate of braking is determined by how fast the energy is put into the DBR.

The DC link capacitance of any inverter drive can itself absorb 3-5% of the regenerated power. For non-critical applications these losses, together with the mechanical losses in the drive system, may provide enough braking. Higher powers, up to 100% or more of the motor’s full load torque rating, can be absorbed and then dissipated by a DBR connected across the DC bus.

Where the braking power is only a few tens or hundreds of watts a resistor mounted internally to the drive itself may be suitable, but above these levels the amount of heat generated means that a separately mounted DBR with appropriate cooling provision is needed.

The DBR is switched on by a separate control unit, activated by a sensor which is monitoring the voltage level of the DC bus and switching on the DBR when this voltage rises above some preset trigger level as a result of the reverse power flowing into the drive. There may be temperature sensing in the DBR to prevent overloading of the drive.

All the energy is used in heating the resistor; some is dissipated at once, the rest after the stop while the resistor cools. This is why we must know the characteristics of the duty cycle before we can specify the right size for the DBR.

What is the stopping energy?

The DBR turns the stop energy into heat. Both types of energy are measured in Joules (J); one Joule is a very small quantity, so we usually talk about kJ or MJ.

In order to design a braking system we have to consider both the amount of heat (in Joules) and the rate at which it is generated. This is Joules/second, usually known as watts, and for the same reason usually measured in kW or MW.

We therefore need to know the quantity of energy per stop, and the stop frequency.

Energy per stop: determines the DBR peak power

Energy per stop + frequency: determines the DBR average power

We all have a good idea of what any given length, weight or time interval represents; this is usually not so for energy. By way of illustration here are some everyday examples:

Man on a bike stopping: 2kJ

Lift with four people in it: 25kJ

Car stopping from 50mph: 250kJ

Flywheel 600mm x 300mm thick, 1500rpm: 375kJ

40’ container lowered on to a ship: 2MJ

Eddie Stobart’s lorry from 65mph: 15MJ

London Underground train from 50mph: 50MJ