Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Fraunhofer IPA: towards the “repair of motors”

20In the e-bike market, one of the hottest problems is the failure of the electric motor. Nowadays, the replacement of the unit occurs in the vast majority of cases. In the light of this situation, the team from Fraunhofer IPA Institute, headed by the project manager Jan Koller, wondered whether it was possible to develop a more circular motor model, providing for the repair instead of the replacement. The first step consisted in the implementation of 3D models and in the creation of spare parts with 3D additive printing, testing the various types of materials and manufacturing over 120 components in 20 different materials. Motors were then reassembled and subjected to severe tests on bench and with real load. Results? The motors so overhauled have offered the same performances as newly-manufactured motors, and with the same guarantee. What is more difficult, economically speaking, is establishing the breakeven point in the motor reconditioning business.

Digital twins and electric motors, studies and startups to innovate

A global research by Altair, American company specialized in computational science and in Artificial Intelligence (AI), involved over 2,000 professionals from 11 sectors in 10 Countries on the Digital Twin theme. Results describe the widespread use of the Digital Twin in numerous fields, with the automotive in the first place, to make cars more efficient and sustainable and to shorten the time to market of electric vehicles. The automotive industry is the second major user of the Digital Twin technology (76%), just preceded by manufacturers of heavy equipment. The primary highlights would reside in the energy saving and in the more efficient use of resources (time, work hours and raw materials), with fewer rejects and wastes. Digital Twin solutions decrease, for instance, the material waste, through simulations and tests carried out during the design process. In this way, the number of physical prototypes needed before the production start is reduced.
Concerning the electrification of motors, Andrea Benedetto, CEO of Altair, stated: «The issue is always optimization. The challenge is to succeed in designing vehicles that weigh less and motors with higher efficiencies for specific use missions. In this way, performances improve and consumptions decrease. In this ambit as well, the Digital Twin can make the difference since development costs. It allows a faster and more efficacious process, driven by optimization».
Concerning this, a recent Italian example is Newtwen, a Padua startup set up by a team of three young researchers and two professors of the local University who have developed a software platform that generates extremely accurate virtual replications of physical systems, able to integrate them inside systems themselves to improve the performances, the longevity and the reliability, without the need of adding new electronic hardware components. The declared target is revolutionizing the future of the mobility and of the sustainable energy by decreasing the environmental impact and the consumptions of electric

Heft project for a new recyclable electric motor

Heft is the name of a European research that will be accomplished by the half of 2026, with the participation of Alma Mater Studiorum of University of Bologna and the Spanish University Mondragon Unibertsitatea. The target is developing a new motor for electric cars. Researchers are working at new synchronous permanent-magnet drive system able to assure lower costs, better efficiency and higher power, reducing the use of rare earths by even 50-60%.
The project, in fact, complies with Erma (European Raw Materials Alliance) goal, which intends to reduce the Old Continent’s external dependence on the front of the provisioning of rare earths, with at least 20% internal support to the demand within 2030.
Among the other targets, also the strengthening of the circular economy, with a new fully recyclable model, able to create development on the territory, meanwhile improving the green all-round approach. The European Union pursued the Heft project, allocating 4 million Euros in its favour, in the ambit of Horizon 2020, instrument of funding to the scientific research and innovation by the European Commission. The project started on December 1st 2022 and will go on for 42 months.
The specialists involved in the project are facing a series of innovative challenges concerning its configuration, focusing efforts on SiC inverters and on materials. For the validation of these high-efficiency low-cost innovations two successful electric cars will be taken as benchmark: Fiat 500e and Volkswagen ID.3.

RISORSA, an innovative way to recycle rare-earth magnets in waste electrical and electronic equipment

The improvement of living conditions and safeguarding the environment go through the planning and reuse of resources. Circular economy can help in several industrial sectors, primarily transport, where electrification relies on critical materials. Rare Earths Elements (such as Nd, Dy, Pr,…) are mandatory to obtain the strongest permanent magnets, but they are rather expensive and subjected to the fluctuation of the market, so that the manufacturing of Electric Vehicles may become very challenging.
A possibility is given by recycling Rare Earths – mainly NdFeB magnets – from other devices; however current recycling techniques are complex and make use of hydrogen or chemical solvents.
In this context, the INSTM consortium (National Interuniversity Consortium of Materials Science and Technology) through its research unit of Politecnico di Torino, University of Florence and University of Parma, together with the cooperation of the Italian Companies RISTA srl, OSAI Automation System, DEMAP and SITEM, proposed a new method to recover Rare Earth elements, which was developed in a project named RISORSA (Rare-earth magnets from RAEE for high-efficiency electromagnetic systems -RIciclo SOstenibile di magneti di terre rare da Raee per Sistemi elettromagnetici ad Alta efficienza).
The activity started by collecting hard disks used in old PCs. Magnets were separated from hard disks through an automatic precision system. Recycled NdFeB powder was obtained using a mechanical technique, based on a vacuum impact mill. The process uses no chemical solvents and does not require to operate in environment containing hydrogen. The obtained powder showed no added oxidation and a good magnetic microstructure. The recycled powder was then used to produce new NdFeB magnets. Considering all aspects, the process cost is lower than 50 €/kg, which makes these new magnets interesting for sectors like electrical transport both in road and aircraft.

By MIT, an electric 1 MW motor to electrify aviation

The electric motor created by MIT engineers to power even large size aircrafts has the power of 1 megawatt. The motor might also be paired with a conventional jet engine to create a hybrid propulsion system. Until now, in fact, only small full-electric aircrafts have taken off, whereas to electrify larger and heavier jets, like airliners, megawatt motors are needed. The 1-megawatt motor developed by MIT might be a fundamental step towards this direction. For fully electric applications, the team provides the motor can be coupled with a source of electricity such as a battery or a fuel cell. Therefore, the motor could transform the electric energy into mechanical work to power the propellers of an aircraft. The electric machine might also be matched to a conventional turbofan jet engine to operate as hybrid drivetrain, providing electric propulsion during some flight phases. Zoltan Spakovszky, T. A. Wilson Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT declared: No matter what we use as an energy carrier (batteries, hydrogen, ammonia, or sustainable aviation fuel) independent of all that, megawatt-class motors will be a key enabler for greening aviation”. The professor added: “This is hard engineering, in terms of co-optimizing individual components and making them compatible with each other while maximizing overall performance. To do this means we have to push the boundaries in materials, manufacturing, thermal management, structures and rotordynamics, and power electronics”. (Picture @Airbus SAS 2023)

Environmental and acoustic impact, the electric motor plays a central role in marine

electrical outlets for charging on boats in the harbor background, horizontal frame

Sima, the Italian company of environmental medicine, has expressed its opinion on the occasion of the last Electric Boat Show. “The reconversion of the over 570,000 leisure boats, 50% of which are under 10 metres, today present in Italy, would contribute in the attainment of 40% of Net Zero targets by 2030, as provided for by EU, and in the decrease of impacts not only of navigation, but also of storage services and the restoration of marine ecosystems in port areas “.
Hence the reflection that the electric boating is an important boost for industry to upgrade the whole naval technology, to frame it in a vision of circular economy with innovative eco-composite materials.
The use of electric boats allows the zeroing of the release of the typical noxious substances of traditional boats, in both water and in atmosphere, such as aromatic and aliphatic hydrocarbons, particulate, fine and ultra-fine particulates, nitrogen and sulphur oxides, mineral oils. Moreover, Sima has underlined how the shift to electric motors drastically decreases the acoustic pollution in the sea, with benefits for the whole marine ecosystem, also implying a notable upsurge in boats’ energy efficiency, increasing it from an average 8% of a means with an endothermic motor to 50% of an electric vehicle.

Loccioni opens the doors to future engineers

One of the key components that in the future will allow the large-scale transition to the electric mobility is the electric axle. Loccioni has embraced this new adventure by developing Axenon, a test bench for e-axle technologies that perform the functional product test at line end, simulating the wheels’ behaviour in different scenarios and collecting data about quality, reliability and performances of each single e-axle. A preliminary assumption to frame a small part of the activity of Loccioni, which has recently hosted the students of the advanced course in Human Centric Engineering SITUM Alumni, who have been guided in a tour through the various work ambits and the current and future opportunities connected with the electrification process.
Important was the contribution by the University of L’ Aquila, which has joined the Polytechnic University of Marche and the University of Perugia in the development of SITUM, because it catches the attention on electrification and its future developments.
The visit in Loccioni laboratories has shown the concreteness of this transition to students. Besides injectors, common rails, pumps and endothermic motors, now inverters, batteries and electric motors must be tested. Even power modules, with SIC semiconductors, core of the electric motor, are the new components of electric vehicles. In addition to e-mobility, in Loccioni there is a lot on show in the front of smart buildings: all 6 laboratories are connected in a micro-grid, 100% electric, whose energy flows coming from renewables are managed by a smart system.

A PhD was born for the study of pumps driven by an electric motor

Vanzetti Engineering, which funds the initiative, and Turin Polytechnics have established a partnership for the implementation of a PhD lasting three years, aimed at the study of pumps driven by an electric motor.
The applications of these machines can be manifold, including the use of a space launcher where pumps will have the task of pressurizing the propellants by bringing them from the tank pressure to that of the combustion chamber, where they react by releasing the energy needed to generate the thrust that allows the rocket to take off.
In the conventional configuration, pumps are driven by dedicated turbines but they can be sometimes replaced by battery-powered electric motors.
The project, exciting for the competences it permits to develop in the ambit of the turbomachine study but also for the fascination of the possible applications, features important advantages for both Turin Polytechnics and for Vanzetti Engineering. “Due to this project, the university further strengthens its collaboration in the sector of the research with companies on the territory while Vanzetti Engineering, specialist in the sector of cryogenic pumps in marine, automotive and industrial ambits, has the opportunity of exploring new possibilities in a technologically advanced and steeply rising sector like the aerospace one”, states Valeria Vanzetti Ghio, sole director of Vanzetti Engineering.

A kit for the hybrid conversion of ambulances is under study

Ambulance racing through city traffic jam on slippery road with slush snow. Car accident on highway.

A University project carried out by Tiziano Montella, Master’s Student in Managerial Engineering at Alma Mater in Bologna, in collaboration with Bonfiglioli, was aimed at defining a hybrid conversion solution for ambulances, based on the use of a kit manufactured by the company, made up by a high-efficiency electric motor and an advanced electronic control system.
The project was organized in two phases. «In the first, we have explored ten different application fields in order to identify new market opportunities for Bonfiglioli products. In the second phase, we have focused on the implementation of a hybrid solution for ambulances, which provides for the replacement of the conventional internal combustion engine with an electric system», the student explained.
The work methodology was focused on the information collection through interviews carried out with a broad range of stakeholders, including nurses, ambulance drivers and vehicle outfitting providers. «Due to this attentive analysis of users’ requirements and preferences, we have developed a customized efficient solution that allows the transition of a conventional vehicle into an ecologically sustainable solution, significantly reducing the environmental impact and improving the energy efficiency. The kit at stake is intended for ambulance outfitting suppliers, which will be able to integrate it easily into their conversion processes».
Moreover the system includes a customized configuration of the motor in P4 position, the latter indicates the motor arrangement on the vehicle’s rear axles (rear 4 wheels), instead of on the front axis. This configuration allows improving the vehicle’s energy efficiency and handiness, since the traction is more uniformly distributed on the four wheels. Furthermore, it enables a higher design freedom and a better balancing of the vehicle’s weight.

University of Nottingham starts electric motor consultancy

The University of Nottingham has created a business unit for the industrialisation of electrical motors and drive systems, claiming that it is the first UK institution to establish an independent business unit for the industrialisation of electrical motors and drive systems.
Nottingham Drive Specialist Services (NDSS) will provide «bespoke development, manufacturing and testing of electrical motors and drives to support the industrialisation of power electronic converters, electrical machines and drives from design through to manufacture and testing», according to the university.
It is based at the recently opened Power Electronics and Machines Centre (PEMC) and has access to more than £20m of equipment. Funding has come from Research England, Getting Building Fund, D2N2, the Wolfson Foundation and the Driving the Electric Revolution Industrialisation Centre. «Over the past 25 years, we have built up a store of intellectual property on this subject area and making this available for companies to benefit from is a key part of what we are doing to support the drive towards electrification and developing the UK supply chain» said NDSS general manager Hitendra Hirani.
The facilities include Test cells: 2MW, 5MW, 500kW altitude environmental, 120,000rpm; propulsion; aircraft generator and actuator test; Characterisation: magnetic materials and insulation; 3MVA PSU and energy storage emulation and Specialist coil winding: Needle (concentrated and distributed stators), Litz, flat conductor, hairpin (continuous and variable cross-section).