Historically, the automotive sector has captured about 80% of the powder metal (PM) industry. As we know, the global automotive industry has been transforming at a rapid pace and the focus has shifted toward electrification. Many view this as a threat to the PM industry - while others find great opportunity - electric motors using Soft Magnetic Composites (SMC).
How do Laminations Stack Up to SMCs?
(Pun - intended)
Flat, laminated electrical steel sheets are stamped into shapes, sorted, and assembled radially or vertically. Will laminations do the job? Yes. Are laminations the best solution? Maybe not.
Steel laminations are limited to a 2D flux path, low frequencies, a less desirable magnetic flux orientation and depending on topology - high cost.
Imagine the benefits – Powder metal (PM), particularly SMCs, work well in all topologies, bringing unique benefits to axial and yokeless axial flux motors. Using SMCs can address a variety of electric motor production concerns, such as:
- Weight Reduction
- Stable Supply Chain
Through the use of SMCs in electric motors, you can reduce core losses at medium to high frequencies due to the reduction in eddy currents – therefore SMCs allow for smaller cooling systems. SMCs also have higher saturation values, which allow them to drive with higher torque output, and to push more flux through the air gap.
Electric motors contain a large amount of expensive and finite copper and rare earth materials - recycling these materials becomes paramount for the sustainability of the E-Market.
Laminations make recycling of these precious materials difficult. Stators and rotors produced with SMCs can be easily crushed, allowing you to easily separate and reclaim the copper and rare earth materials, continuing the circle of life.
PM has been shown to be 15% more energy efficient, with less greenhouse gas emissions when compared to other metalforming technologies. SMCs reduce the amount of copper needed by eliminating or taking advantage of the end turns with 3D shapemaking capability.
SMCs have 3D shapemaking flexibility, allowing for optimized magnetic design and weight reduction. The ability to use SMCs for topologies like axial flux motors leads to a lighter weight motor design. Better copper utilization leads to an intrinsically lower weight motor. Lastly, the higher torque density coupled with lighter weight, opens the door for wheel hub motors without compromising vehicle dynamics.
Stable Supply Chain
Despite global supply chain issues with other manufacturing materials, there is a large supply of powdered metal materials readily available. The downsizing and electrification of vehicles is freeing up localized capacity for material production to be converted to SMCs – as opposed to the steel lamination industry which projects a 400% deficit in the next 5 years.
Powder Metal & SMCs - Sustainability, Stability, & Innovation
The global automotive industry is in the midst of a massive transformation - a transformation the powder metal industry, along with SMCs, are ready to capitalize on.
If you’d like to learn more about how SMCs are electrifying the powder metal industry, check out our AC Electric Motor Design Guide.