Large cooling fan assemblies meant to cool electric motors consume a lot of energy and space. There’s a need for new solutions for electric motor designs that offer improved performance while reducing the need for large cooling system designs.
The good news is that motor manufacturers are developing better motors that use less energy and lower costs. Leveraging innovative materials such as soft magnetic composites (SMCs) and powder metal techniques for electric motor applications saves energy and improves performance. Soft magnetic composites, when used in electric motor design, can help reduce core losses, thus reducing heat, which in turn reduces the need for large and costly cooling systems.
If you're new to SMCs, our beginner's guide can be a good place to start to learn more.
Core Losses and Cooling System Design in Electric Motors
Not all power applied to an electric motor translates to energy production. A percentage of energy can be lost through:
- Stator and rotor losses
- Cooling systems
- Winding loss
Core loss is a leading cause of energy waste and inefficiencies in motors, accounting for over 25% of motor inefficiency, depending on load condition. If applied appropriately, SMCs designs can improve magnetic performance, which leads to reduced energy consumption and lower core losses. Notably, reduced core losses lower the overall heat of the assembly.
Properties of Soft Magnetic Materials that Reduce Core Losses & Heat
SMCs are metal powders that are coated with an electrically insulating material, compacted at high pressures, and then heat treated.
Let's look at the characteristics of SMCs that make them great options for electric assemblies:
- Reduces core losses
- Unique shape-making to maximize the magnetic material’s effectiveness
- Reduces assembly steps
- Potentially reduces copper use (windings)
- Cost reduction of total system
- A proven process
Powder metal and SMC materials can create components that make electric vehicle cooling system designs more efficient while reducing noise, vibration, and harshness.
SMCs also use less energy, making them more environmentally friendly and cost-effective for smaller assemblies looking to produce less heat. In addition, their unique shaping capabilities provides opportunities for complex geometries and conserving space by changing the motor's fundamental design.
Ideally, SMC manufacturers can change your designs from radial to other options such as axial flux or pancake motors -- with ease. These alternatives present the engineer with weight- and space-saving opportunities to facilitate a more efficient design.
Reduced Assembly Size
With an electric steel lamination design, 3D shaping requires an assembly process involving several varying laminate sizes stacked together to create a rounded shape.
SMCs needs fewer parts to accomplish a complex design that doesn't take a lot of assembly.
Using SMCs can lead to total cost savings in production via:
- Reducing motor size
- Reducing the need for large cooling assemblies
- Minimizing the magnetic losses such as heat buildup/eddy current losses
It also reduces the amount of copper needed for motor windings in the powder metallurgy process, making production much more cost-efficient.
In addition to the many benefits of SMCs in electric motors, advanced powder metal technologies -- such as sintered soft magnetics -- give the designer additional benefits in:
- Fast-switching solenoids
- Higher-strength rotating components
A Proven Process
Using SMCs isn't a new process. From the early SMC parts (i.e. the GM ignition coil in the 1990s), SMC has used powder metal’s capabilities to position itself as an efficient metal manufacturing process.
SMCs designs have been an evolving process with measured success. With the growing demand for “electrification,” manufacturers/designers are looking for new technology offered by SMCs to push efficiency to the limit.
SMCs Are Catching Fire in Manufacturing -- Here’s Why
All of these benefits of SMCs are instrumental for reducing the need for large electric motor cooling fan designs. The application of soft magnetic materials can lower electric motor heat and improve energy efficiency, all because of their uniquely shaped magnetic nature.
Manufacturers are producing millions of motors a day around the world, and SMCs are no longer the best-kept secret. Innovative companies are now taking full advantage of the newest SMC technology.
Doing it the traditional way is no longer the only option.
SMCs are the next logical step to improving motor assemblies. Increased interest in this technology has accelerated the design and research of soft magnetic materials and processes, leading to further breakthroughs.
To learn more about what these materials and processes are capable of, check out our new hub for electric motor assembly and design!