A motor soft starter is a device used with AC electrical motors to temporarily reduce the load and torque in the powertrain and electric current surge of the motor during start-up. This reduces the mechanical stress on the motor and shaft, as well as the electrodynamic stresses on the attached power cables and electrical distribution network, extending the lifespan of the system.
It can consist of mechanical or electrical devices, or a combination of both. Mechanical soft starters include clutches and several types of couplings using a fluid, magnetic forces, or steel shot to transmit torque, similar to other forms of torque limiter. Electrical soft starters can be any control system that reduces the torque by temporarily reducing the voltage or current input, or a device that temporarily alters how the motor is connected in the electric circuit.
Across-the line starting of induction motors is accompanied by inrush currents up to 7-10 times higher than running current, and starting torque up to 3 times higher than running torque. The increased torque results in sudden mechanical stress on the machine which leads to a reduced service life. Moreover, the high inrush current stresses the power supply, which may lead to voltage dips. As a result, lifespan of sensitive equipment may be reduced.