A team from the UK’s Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) has developed a way of producing key components for electric motors using additive manufacturing (3D printing) techniques. This has resulted in a motor that, despite having smaller and lighter parts, has a higher output power. It also has fewer components, potentially simplifying supply chains, increasing manufacturing efficiencies, cutting running costs, and reducing assembly and inspection time and costs.

The team, along with its electrification experts, believe the MTC is one of the first organisations in the world to achieve this. Although 3D-printed motors have been the subject of theoretical studies in the past, they have yet to reach commercial reality.

The MTC team cleared a path for producing motors using additive manufacturing (AM) techniques. It has already developed a way of making motor casings that incorporate cooling channels using these techniques, and is now aiming to produce entire motors using AM.

“Additive manufacturing is a key enabler for developing the complex features and forms essential to improving the performance and functionality of electric motors,” Steve Nesbitt, chief technologist for MTC, said . “The process of manufacturing electric motors has a number of challenges including complex or manual assembly, materials that are difficult to process and which can be expensive, thermal management, and the need to make the assembly lighter. By leveraging the capabilities of additive manufacture through product redesign, major benefits can be achieved in costs, waste reduction, performance and ease of manufacture.”

The team is now investigating further developments required for commercial production, with the aim of overcoming potential challenges and constraints.

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