Pump Engineer had the pleasure of speaking with Patrick Hogg, Director of Marketing, and Tim Albers, Director of Product Management, to learn about the dynamic progression of NIDEC Motor Corporation’s iconic products, its dedication to producing a smaller social and environmental footprint, and the steps it is taking to ensure that it will continue to be the number one comprehensive motor manufacturer in the world.
By Sara Mathov and Angelica Pajkovic
Who is Nidec?
Nidec Motor Corporation (Division of Nidec) is widely recognized as the leading manufacturer of industrial motors and controls. In 1962, Emerson Electric acquired U.S. MOTORS and in 2010, the company was subsequently acquired by the newly created Nidec Motor Corporation, a group company of Japan-based Nidec Corporation. Headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, Nidec is a global company that features a full range of high-efficiency motors, both large and small, which serve the industrial, residential, and commercial markets. It has manufacturing facilities in North and South America, Asia, and Europe that design electric motors and drives for applications for the Agriculture, Industrial Equipment, Mining and Metals, Power Generation, Process Cooling Towers, and Water Treatment industries. When Nidec Corporation acquired its motors and controls business, it laid the foundation for a full industry-leading motor solution portfolio. This portfolio included the amalgamation of the different brands, such as: U.S. MOTORS, Leroy-Somer, Control Techniques, Kato Engineering, KB Electronics, and more. While NIDEC’s U.S. MOTORS brand predominantly serves the U.S. market,its products are world-wide. The U.S. Motors brand is synonymous with vertical motors, with its most iconic product, the Vertical Holloshaft®.
100 Years of the Vertical Hollowshaft®
Celebrating its 100th anniversary of the Vertical Holloshaft® (VHS), Nidec is proud of the roots it established with the advent of the dynamic product. Due to California’s growing need for water over the past century, advancements were made in underground wells to help mitigate the effect of droughts. Industrial users and farmers alike turned to groundwater to irrigate crops or acquire process water, providing Nidec with the opportunity to fill a gap in the industry. “Our customers drove the innovation that led to the development of VHS motors 100 years ago. The Holloshaft® is not just a horizontal motor turned for vertical mounting; it was curated and developed to address specific customer needs,” explained Hogg.
Originally, the U.S. Motors produced right angle gears with a thrust pod to carry the thrust of the pump. There were three issues with this solution; first, the gear must be maintained, second, the space needed for the horizontal setup was often insufficient, and third, the system lacked efficiency. “In many cases, an angle gear used in this type of application was not a high precision gear, and therefore lead to several efficiency losses,” stated Hogg. “More energy and maintenance was required to run it. The innovation of the vertical motor allowed all these pain points to be solved at once. We succeeded in producing a much superior motor/pump system for use in the agricultural and mining industries.” The product features inherent self-alignment, which eliminates wear on the pump bearings caused by misalignment. Its unique coupling construction also enables quick adjustments of pump impellers.
“The incorporation of thrust bearings into the motor lowers the cost of operation, while the use of a non-reverse ratchet protects the pump shaft’s integrity, mitigating the risk of damage caused by reverse rotation,” continued Hogg. When it became apparent that irrigation pumps may be idle for long periods of time, a lubrication system was also developed to keep the thrust bearings immersed in oil when the motor was shut down.
“Our U.S. Motors brand motors became so ubiquitous in the vertical turbine pumping industry that the motor mounting flange dimensions were adopted by NEMA for all motor manufacturers to follow,” said Hogg. There is no doubt as to why the Holloshaft® has been so widely used for so long, and now celebrates its 100th anniversary. “We have a history in providing the driving force for the pumping industry,” said Albers. “The product has proven its worth 100 times over and will continue to be industry standard for vertical turbine pump motors as time progresses.”
Solving Pain Points in the Industry
Despite its success with the product, Nidec did not stop at the creation of the Vertical Holloshaft®; its innovations go much further. To address both the major and minor issues end users experience with pump applications, Nidec gathers intel directly from the source to solve the most unique pain points proactively.
“Word of mouth is the main way we acquire information on what the customer needs. We are out in the field asking our customers, and the people using the products, what they need to streamline and facilitate their processes,” said Hogg. “For example, we have updated the vertical Holloshaft® design many times, making improvements to its transportation protections and the site gauge, among other things. We were also the first to put insulated bearings in stock vertical motors that were VFD rated as a standard practice, because we wanted to produce the best possible product for the industry, and that is what the industry needed.”
To ensure that Nidec US MOTORS® products not only meet, but exceed industry standards, multiple groups of engineers and designers come together to create its various motor designs. “Back-end design engineers ensure the correct power and fit is assigned. An application engineering group then looks at how to best fit the product for the application; this process entails assessing whether changes need to be made to customize the product. Finally, the product management group links all the work together to market the product to the appropriate user and application. Together these engineering groups work to create products that surpass the highest quality standards,” explained Albers. All motors are constructed of high-quality materials and are manufactured in a state-of-the-art, ISO9000-2000 facility.
Since its inception, Nidec’s dedication to environmentally and socially responsible operations has been evident. Not only through the manner in which it creates its products, but also in the way it strives to maximize energy use while decreasing energy waste. “We believe that one of the next steps for us is renewing our focus on streamlined system installations and energy efficiency. How can a more controllable overall pumping system that saves energy be found? Nidec believes it can be address by producing a product that can control output and react to demand,” said Hogg.
Efficiency is critical to the successful operation of a pump. A variable frequency drive (VFD) enables the system to modify its energy output based on the task at hand; different modes are used to optimize systems to ultimately mitigate the risk of failures and downtime.
“By providing intelligent technologies that integrate our motors within the applications they are powering, such as variable speed pumps, Nidec makes systems last longer and further contributes to increasing the efficiency of the infrastructure of our society. Energy savings can be anywhere from 25-60%,” explained Albers.
Although Nidec’s current product includes ranges that are dedicated to use on inverters, particularly for verticals, expansion is occurring. “Some new areas we are exploring include the use of integrated motors and drives, and not just the usual EC motors, but alternative designs to make these high efficiency motors easier to incorporate into applications. These products have the potential to offer even higher efficiency, energy conservation, and easier integration to systems then their predecessors,” said Hogg.
Looking to the Future
As its 100th year celebration for the Holloshaft® continues, Nidec is grateful to its customers, business partners, and employees for the trust, support, and hard work that allowed it to steadily improve and innovate its products over the years. “Progress will not stop here – Nidec is continually looking for ways to improve customers’ lives through technology that keeps people moving,” said Albers.
Nidec remains dedicated to developing new ways to lead the pump industry through the ever-changing market. “We have done a lot in the last 100 years, such as optimizing drive systems, and the Vertical Holloshaft®, but the next 100 years is going to be about how to optimize the processes for our customers, which we are more than prepared to do. I really believe that the number one reason that people come to Nidec is due to the service they receive. Not just customer support, but the systems, technologies, and solutions that we set up to meet their needs,” concluded Hogg.