Apr 18, 2018 | By David

A research project at Germany’s TU Chemnitz has succeeded in 3D printing every important component for an electrical motor for the first time, simultaneously printing with copper, iron and ceramics. After over two years of work, a team led by Prof. Dr. Ralf Werner, of the Chemnitz University of Technology Professorship of Electrical Energy Conversion Systems and Drives, will be presenting their breakthrough at this year’s Hanover Messe trade fair.

The first major step on this journey was the completion of a fully 3D printed coil. The coil was capable of withstanding temperatures of over 300°C and it was presented for the first time last year by two members of Werner’s academic staff, Johannes Rudolph and Fabian Lorenz. The coil consists primarily of copper electrical conductors, which are capable of creating magnetic fields in combination with iron or iron alloy components. A ceramic material is used in order to insulate the copper conductors from each other as well as from the iron or iron alloy components.

Instead of the conventional polymer materials used for insulation in this kind of motor, the team adopted to fabricate the coil using more advanced 3D printed ceramics. These materials had much higher levels of temperature resistance. ''Our goal over the last two and a half years was to dramatically increase the temperature that electrical machines are capable of withstanding'', said Werner.

According to Rudolph, ''The maximum permissible winding temperature of 220°C associated with conventional insulation systems can then be exceeded by a significant amount. The operating temperature of electric machines is therefore only limited by the ferromagnetic properties of the iron components, which can only be maintained up to 700°C.'' Not only do the 3D printed ceramics withstand heat better, they also conduct heat more efficiently. This improved ability to dissipate heat loss contributed to a higher level of output density for the motor.

The team’s innovative 3D printing process involves the use of pastes, which are extruded as in FDM printing and then subsequently sintered together, as in SLS techniques. These pastes are composed of ceramics materials as well as metallic materials like copper and iron. Specially adapted bonding agents are used to hold the viscous pastes together. The technique allows for simultaneous 3D printing of ceramics and metallic structures. This groundbreaking approach could go on to have a huge range of potential applications for manufacturing electrical equipment. As we reported last year, this new 3D printing process was developed in close collaboration with German company ViscoTec, an expert in manufacturing systems for pumping fluids.

(all images, source: TU Chemnitz)

''The motor that was printed in the Chemnitz University Laboratory represents a breakthrough and is at the same time the proof of principle – it demonstrates the feasibility – of our technology'', says Rudolph. After his involvement in the development of this pioneering manufacturing technique, he is now preparing to launch a start-up company based on the research, alongside Lorenz. To generate further interest, the team will be presenting their 3D printed electrical motor and associated research developments from April 23- 27 at the Hannover Messe trade fair.





Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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