Electric motor: current and future scenarios

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The recent edition of Cwieme in Berlin has once again confirmed that the language of the future is increasingly “electric-oriented”, not only in automotive but also in appliance ambit and in the most different applicative sectors. Ferment that involves the entire manufacturing chain, with companies committed to providing innovation that keeps pace with a more and more challenging and competitive market. What is their product and service proposal, and their point of view on possible evolutions?

Increasingly spread in all application types, electric motors find all-round use due to their well-known peculiarities and operational technical specifications. In this context, undoubted protagonists and big users are, among the others, the automotive and the household appliance industry. Sectors that benefit from a complex manufacturing chain that must keep pace with technological innovation to be able to provide solutions in a more and more complex and competitive market. Manufacturing companies that, according to their specialization, supply components, machining lines and plants, besides support and consulting of absolute technical level. We have interviewed some of them. A representative panel (without the presumption of being exhaustive on the topic) to highlight their proposal of competences and solutions, besides trying to outline the possible future scenarios and trends.

What proposal of products and technological support for the electric motor world in automotive and/or appliance ambit?

World reference reality in the production of high-speed presses, automations and complete systems for the sheet metal forming, AIDA, for several time now, has already invested part of its research capability in the development of specific solutions for the production of electric motors. Today the fruit of this activity allows the company to offer two product lines fully dedicated to rolling: AIDA HMX Series and AIDA MSP Series.

“They are products– confirms Michele Archenti, Sales and Marketing Manager AIDA Europe – the market already highly appreciates. To the extent that we can boast hundreds of installations in leader players’ production plants”. AIDA MSP presses (Multi-Suspension Points Presses) allow producing high precision and high efficiency motors such as EV motors, HEV motors and energy-efficient home appliances motors. Executions that are highly suitable for the production of parts characterized by thicknesses under 0.2 mm. “Such presses – adds Archenti – stand out for notable dynamic precision, due to both the compact design, to the architecture consisting in in-line multi-suspension points, to the native Aim function (i.e. Adjust In Motion) and finally to the balance reached between the high stiffness and the wide plan surface. Indispensable prerogative, the latter, to house tools with the number of stages needed for the production of high-efficiency motors”.

BTSR International operates in the design and manufacturing of electronic sensors for the quality control in the manufacturing chains of clothing-textile, mechano-textile and technical textile, besides operating for years also with solutions for the testing of metal wires (copper and precious metals).

“Ambit, the latter – confirms the project manager, Paolo Caviggioli – that has allowed further increasing our presence in the automotive market. With high-tech solutions, which include electronic sensors and smart systems, aimed at satisfying the most different requirements in the monitoring of wire sliding, of feeding tension control and of all major quality parameters of all kinds of wires: traditional wires, elastomers, glass fibers and carbon fibers”. Among them, stands out the new patented CWF 2000, specific high-tech system, that is to say an innovative solution that redefines the state-of-the-art in the wire feeding technology, likely to have a significant impact in the sector of metal coil winding. Available in two versions (CWF2000 to work on machines with double-winding and coil and CWF2000 HCL for needle machines and needle winding machines), if finds applications in several sectors, such as producers of ignition coils for automotive, of solenoids, of transformers, of relays, of stator and rotor windings for household appliance motors.

Demak produces plants for the degassing, meter-mixing and dispensing of epoxy, polyurethane, silicon resins, and several other types of resins. Moreover, the company can supply customers with the suitable resins for their processes and productions, through the sister company S.E. Special Engines Srl, formulating and producing chemical company. “Demak Group – underlines Massimiliano Balboni, Technical Sales Manager of Demak Group – approaches then the automotive EV/HEV market as supplier of plants and resins for the encapsulation of electric traction motors and other electric-electronic components. Every day the protection and the rise of performances of the electric motor becomes more important and here the use of the vacuum encapsulation technology becomes fundamental. In fact, with the choice of a suitable resin, it is possible to grant an important heat dissipation of the motor and higher resistance to collisions, vibrations, chemical agents, water, dust, and other external agents”.

EuroGroup Laminations is Holding of the Italian engineering group, world reference reality in the production of magnetic blanked laminations for stators and rotors of electric motors and generators. A Group today composed by 7 manufacturing units in Italy and other 5 in Mexico, United States, Tunisia, Russia and China. The Group is at the service of several sectors, like automotive, which provides the major boost of developments oriented to an epochal turning point towards the electrical car. “In this survey– states Sergio Iori, president of EuroGroup – our Group plays an important role, offering more and more efficient stators/rotors for electric motors to the market. Efficiency that, in the specific case of electric vehicles, results in more autonomy of car driving distance”. In the stator/rotor, this needs not only a use of steels with increasingly high magnetic and permeability features but also thicknesses that from standard 0.5-0.65 mm decrease to 0.30-0.20 mm (and someone already uses 0.10 mm), besides stricter geometrical tolerances owing to heat and noise reduction reasons. “Our response/offer to the market– adds Iori – provides for several solutions: progressive blanking dies able to process these new materials, assuring the final characteristics demanded; assembling systems of single stator/rotor laminations; accessory operations on the motor, like magnet and shaft insertion and successive machining and balancing”. In particular, the assembling systems of single stator/rotor laminations provide for various solutions: gluing (Glue Fastec); packing (Corpack/Zip) during the blanking with compensation by rotation of laminations, even with 0.20 mm thickness (granting a stacking-factor in line with the motor requirements); welding of stator/ rotor through laser/Tig/Mig technology. “In line with the requisites of Industry 4.0 – adds Iori – we can assure the total traceability of our whole production. All that in compliance with quality procedures established by IATF regulations”. This industrial approach is adopted by EuroGroup also for stators/rotors for the Home Appliances sector, to the end of a constant technical improvement, aimed at increasing the efficiencies of the electric motor for this type of applications.

Inarca is a company that makes research its main asset, then applied to the design and production of terminals, connectors, technologies and machines for electric connections. “Reading it – comments the sales manager Alessandro Rocchi – it seems a stock phrase but the innovation that derives from intense research activities is actually the main competitive edge that has allowed us, along the years, an almost constant growth. Besides, it is also the primary factor that permits us to compete on apparently difficult markets, since characterized by much lower pure labour costs”.

 

After the recent celebrations of the 25th anniversary of activity, Piciesse starts the new year with a heritage of experience and internationalism in the world of printed circuit boards. Almost 50% of its turnover comes from the automotive industry, inside of which stand out the apt qualitative policies for constant improvement and updating, in certification ambit, too (see VDA 6.3), and for promoting the constant technological upgrade. “Power circuits – specifies Enzo Montani, partner and member of the Board of Directors, together with Claudia Marinelli and Gian Marco Baldini– can represent a valid proposal by Piciesse to the electric motor world. Such market is increasingly connected with this typology of circuits, whose materials, granting the heat dissipation, reach high copper thicknesses, i.e. from 105 to 400 µm, and they often allow connections to further heatsinks. The result? An increased and better heat management. Currently, the means prevailingly equipped with this typology of PCB are machines for handling, warehouse management or displacements of goods, such as forklifts, tow hooks, cranes and so on. They are defined power circuits because they can withstand and manage a bigger passage of electric current, with a higher voltage/current product able to create, precisely, more power”.

TE Connectivity is a technology company that designs and manufactures connectivity and sensor products for harsh environments in a variety of industries, including automotive, appliances, data and devices’ industrial, energy and medical. “We also offer a wide choice of products – specifies Ugo Aime, Product Manager in TE Connectivity – for applications in electric motors, transformers, inductors, electromagnets, coils and other devices with enameled wire windings. A high value derives from offering “full package” solutions such as terminal + plastic cavity + assembly, to ensure a significant cost reduction, together with higher efficiency and reliability”. The ‘Insulation Displacement Connection’ (IDC) / Crimp technology is a valid alternative to the welding process for enameled wire termination; this process is still used by majority of the market for electric motor connections. “Connections with IDC/Crimp technology – Aime emphasizes – offer several advantages, including, for example, the absence of chemicals and high temperatures/power. Oxides and possible contamination risks are eliminated, providing a clean contact surface and a stable, gas-tight electrical connection. Another strength is the increased flexibility, since it is possible to terminate not only copper wires, but also aluminum and combinations of copper and aluminum wires”. TE Connectivity is also offering different termination machines, that provide high reliability with minimal wire preparation. Additionally, many TE Connectivity machines have an automatic precision adjustment functionality, i.e. ‘Crimp Quality Monitor’CQM), to ensure maximum quality during the production process.

Zoppas Industries Heating Element Technologies, operating in over 200 markets in heating systems, considers the evolution of the automotive market in electric vehicles as a strategic opportunity to offer its “know-how”, gained in over 55 years of experience, in the thermal management of both batteries and of the entire car interior. At the state-of-the-art, the company is developing solutions of heating and maintenance of the correct operation temperature of batteries through both “direct heating”, then the applications of heating sheets directly in contact with cells, and with “indirect” proposals, like the introduction of conditioning circuits for fluid solutions and heat exchangers. Referring to the car interior, both “booster” solutions for heat pumps and air heating systems are available.

 

 

Future scenarios and technological trends

After outlining the product and support proposal for the electric motor world in automotive and/or appliance ambit, we have asked interviewed companies their point of view on possible future scenarios/technological trends.

“The most felt requirements in the sheet metal forming market, especially for the automotive sector– highlights Michele Archenti, Sales and Marketing Manager AIDA Europe – are, and will increasingly be, more control and more automation of manufacturing processes. The revolution called Industry 4.0, aimed at boosting innovation in industrial field, mainly focuses on the theme of the integration and the connection of industrial machines to the corporate net. Concerning this, the most important novelty at which we are working, concerns the use of Machine Learning algorithms to offer advanced preventive maintenance solutions able to help us in preserving the most important good of each customer: manufacturing continuity”.

Precisely according to this vision, AIDA group has already developed and implemented its complete solution for the data processing (through cloud computing): AiCARE (AIDA Information Care System). It can provide advanced information about the production and maintenance state of each single press, such as, just to make an example, manufacturing data, data on energy consumptions, on the oil quality or the operational temperature, or data regarding the use degree of each single element that composes the press.

“The AiCARE system– adds Archenti – has been conceived to be integrated on all of our press typologies but, at the same time, it can be seen as an external device to be implemented on already installed presses”.

Therefore, it is a solution “that can be retrofitted” on the machine fleet already installed. Not only AIDA presses are concerned but the installation is possible also on other manufacturers’ presses.

Concerning possible future trends and scenarios, Bluergo thinks that the electric motor evolution as traction, in automotive ambit, will have its course, with times a bit delayed compared to what imaginable just some years ago. Owing to different reasons, as Andrea Cusinato, Sales Department Bluergo, specified: “Without prejudice to the environmental and performance benefits, there are some criticalities and difficulties not completely solved, I think. I am referring, for instance, to an infrastructure and to a grid energy not ready to transpose “big numbers”. If, instead, with electric motor – specifies Cusinato – we mean not only the traction, it is indisputable it is in constant evolution. Especially if we refer to brushless motors, which nowadays represent the almost totality of motions and drives equipping a car”.

Bluergo has been committed to this ambit for years and it is investing huge resources in it. A strongly growing market that, today, absorbs a significant percentage of the corporate production.

“Referring to the Home Appliance sector – adds Cusinato – it is following the same evolutionary course, with the replacement of standard single-phase motors with brushless technology. However, also in this case the cost aspect hinders its mass diffusion”.

Cagnoni confirms the electric motor world is living a constant growth in the automotive and appliance sectors.

“Nevertheless – specifies the managing director Giordano Sorci – the brushless motor is rapidly spreading, widening applicative opportunities. Today, also for this reason, our customers, I would say about 10% of them, are diversifying productions by introducing the brushless technology, too. However, not all sectors can avail themselves of these typologies, therefore I believe the conventional brushed motor still has several decades of career in front”.

Automation is increasingly shifting towards motors produced in smaller yearly quantities. This is the point of view of Dema that, by voice of the owner Mr Cesare Librici, confirms how such datum influences the technological requisites demanded for its plants.

“If previously – states the engineer Librici – typically one of our automated machines was required by one of our customers that had productions of 500,000, one million of parts yearly, today we have dropped by one order of magnitude. This means the demand for the part of our competence is oriented towards a fully automatic process. And no longer semi-automatic or even manual. This interpretation concerns both the automotive and the industrial world. More complex is instead interpreting trends and scenarios for the appliance industry that, still according to our point of view, does not seem to show particular interest in investments in new products today”.

Clear and precise also the vision of Demak about possible future scenarios/technological trends where the electric motor will be the protagonist.

“Certainly electrification – states the Technical Sales Manager, Massimiliano Balboni – already in course for some years, will become a “vital” and decisive step for all OEMs and for the whole chain. Especially, however, for companies that will mandatorily need to integrate into their manufacturing cycle technologies with zero or minimal impact on the environment. Therefore, it is undoubted that companies themselves, besides investing in R&D activities for the development of electric traction with more autonomy, will be also requested to provide for investing in “Eco-Friendly” technologies, which can grant, at the same time, excellent-level performances of the electric motor and of other components”.

Wide, efficacious and detailed is the reflection expressed by Inarca on possible future scenarios/technological trends, implemented in automotive and appliance ambit.

“In automotive ambit – highlights the sale manager Alessandro Rocchi – the increasingly extended demand for components managed by electronics makes the need of connecting mechanical parts to boards or circuits more and more frequent. This will lead to an ever-rising diffusion of the mechanical cold junction, much more efficient than welding, due to both the minor problems in junction phase and the possibility of replacing parts quickly. Consequently, the market trend is favourable for us, since we have invested for years in Crimp and IDC technologies, where today we can say we are technological leaders. Moreover, the more and more diffused presence of aluminium, instead of copper, as material used for electric motors’ windings works for us, as we have developed for years more and more efficient solutions for applications of this kind”.

Referring to the appliance world, Rocchi points out that the technological evolution of the household appliance sector determines an increasingly massive presence of electronics, which exponentially increases the number of connections for each single device and produces more and more complex geometries.

“The successive step – he adds – will be the massive diffusion of iOt, internet of things, which will further boost this phenomenon».

In this context, Inarca proposes itself as technological reference partner: for years, in fact, it has developed a line of specific solutions for the mechanical cold junction (both Crimp and IDC), which allow utmost efficiency in application phase.

TE Connectivity estimates that trends and possible scenarios for the future are oriented towards an increased usage of aluminum wires.

Ugo Aime, Product Manager, explains and concludes: “Where there are no particular problems with the space for the components, more competitive solutions which are cheaper and lighter will be available”.

 Concerning future trends and scenarios, Zoppas Industries Heating Element Technologies highlights a first big discriminant among hybrid, plug-in and full-electric vehicles. Moreover, car typologies will be subdivided by autonomy range and by market target, luxury and performances, too. The company’s hypothesis envisages a more and more fragmented market, to meet the manifold requirements that, in combination with the new trends of Megacities and of connectivity, will be defined by end-users.

 

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