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Drive users: Are you breaking the law?

03 January 2015

New legislation covering the export of high frequency (HF) drives could result in hefty penalties, including potential prison sentences, for machine builders and system integrators, advises Control Techniques

EU Regulation No. 428/2009 and subsequent amendments covers the export of goods, software and technology normally used for civilian purposes but which may have military applications, or may contribute to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. With this in mind, the EU controls the export, transit and brokering of these items as a key instrument contributing to international peace and security.

At the time of writing, the amended legislation is expected to come into force in the EU in December 2014 and, among other things, concerns the supply of HF capable drives, e.g. drives capable of producing an output frequency of greater than 600 Hz. Regulations controlling the export of high frequency drives are already in force in the United States, and similar regulations are due to be introduced to China in early 2015.

In order to comply with the new legislation, businesses which export goods or machines that incorporate goods that are controlled under the terms of the EU regulation to locations outside the EU must apply for the relevant export licences from their respective governments. The changes also have an effect on the documentation required in any transaction, as well as the measures which are taken to securely store the controlled goods.

It is crucial businesses are aware of the amendments to the dual use legislation

Potential sanctions for failing to comply with the legislation range from financial penalties through to trade restrictions and even prison sentences for individuals.  Exporting controlled goods without suitable authorisation is a customs offence.

High frequency drives are used in a number of applications, including automotive testing, turbine test benches, grinding, where speeds in excess of those which can be achieved by a ‘standard’ variable speed drive are required. However, as well as civilian applications, drives operating at higher output frequencies can also be used in the process of refining nuclear materials, hence the stricter export controls brought in with the amended legislation.

Control Techniques, a business unit of Emerson Industrial Automation, is keen to advise OEMs and machine builders which incorporate HF drives in their designs that it is they, not the drives manufacturer, who are responsible for checking and evaluating whether or not their machines comply with, or contravene, the relevant legislation. It is also important for businesses to identify whether any existing machines and systems are affected by the directive, as it could affect their ability to export their machines.

Control Techniques is keen to help and will inform its customers if the drives they purchase appear on the controlled list, but is still advising people to educate themselves on the changes to the export regulations and the ways in which their businesses may be impacted.

Control Techniques took the step of limiting the frequency of the majority of its drives in anticipation of the new legislation. The Control Techniques Unidrive M range was limited to 550 Hz since its introduction in 2012, and older drive models were revised to be limited to 550 Hz. Servo and DC drives are not affected.

In anticipation of the new legislation, Control Techniques has specifically developed a range of HF drives to meet the requirements of the civilian applications that are an important part of its business.

Enrique Minarro Viseras, president of Control Techniques, added: "It is crucial businesses are aware of the amendments to the dual use legislation. We pride ourselves on our ability to make things as easy and trouble-free as possible for our customers, and have worked hard to ensure our products and processes comply with the new legislation.

"We would urge other businesses to investigate the extent to which they are liable and take the appropriate steps to ensure full compliance.”