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Steve Maxwell
Aug 30, 2017

A question of power.


Having no three phase supply, I recently decided to convert a large pillar drill I acquired a few years ago, from three phase to single phase power. First of all, I went to a local motor rewind specialist and asked if they could convert the existing motor. They said they could but it would be altogether better to just put in a brand new single phase 1hp motor; a four pole motor giving the correct 1500 RPM. I have now fitted this motor and the machine is excellent. - the single phase supply has enough capacity to cope with the load.


My question is this: can this approach be used on other machine tools; lathes and milling machines? Have I just spent too many years being put off larger machine tools by the installation of three phase power, or an inverter? Are there any disadvantages to using single phase: less smooth power delivery or lack of torque?


OK, I realise this is three questions but any advice about the maximum size of machine I could consider running on single phase power would be appreciated.

Sep 1, 2017

There are several options available. 1) replace the three phase motor with a single phase motor. 2) build or buy a RPC (rotary phase converter) for your shop that can run several machines. 3) purchase a VFD (variable frequency drive) for your machine.


#3 is fast becoming a very cost effective solution. VFD's are quite inexpensive and will take single phase input and output three phase. Additionally, you get a variable speed drive.

Sep 1, 2017

Regarding maximum motor size, There is no three phase available near me. I am running a 15HP air compressor and a 20 HP lathe on single phase power. This is using a RPC and transformer to get home made 480 VAC 3 ph.

Sep 19, 2017

Not being that educated on the Variable Frequency Drive method, I opted for the Rotary Phase Converter route. It has worked many years so I should not complain. I used a design and schematic I found on the Net that uses a push buttons set up to start and stop the idler motor. Chasing used parts on the network and a used idler motor, I ended up with around $300.00 in the project. One advantage the RPC system has is that I could tie all my three phase machines to it. Of course I only run one machine at a time to not overload the RPC circuit breaker.


I would not go this route again after helping friends install VFD systems. The RPC does not give me variable speed and the cost of the import VFD systems for 1 to 3 horse power motors is now in the same price range. Only draw back is that you would need a VFD system per machine.

Oct 31, 2017

I use only one VDF for both my lathe and my drillpress. Just Plug in and plug out in one female connector.

Mar 11, 2018

I also have one VFD/inverter shared by my lathe and my drill press. I recently put 3-phase motors on both machines.

The drill press is fabulous.



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