During the past years, there has been a growing interest in the field of additive manufacturing, as it has emerged as an alternative manufacturing process to the traditional ones, offering virtually unlimited potential for a wide range of industrial and special-purpose applications. It has also attracted interest in electrical machines manufacturing. In this industry, the additive manufacturing process has not yet progressed to an advanced stage as compared to the conventional manufacturing processes, so researchers in Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) are working hard to fill the research gaps.
Nowadays, the electrical machine design is pushed forward by the need of increased energy efficiency and progress of system integration, which has lead also to investigation of alternative production methods for electrical machines.
Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is opening up new ground for innovations in low-volume production due to faster and cheaper prototyping, reduced lead time and shorter supply chains. It is a relatively new technology, which enables the tool-free production of components and entire assemblies directly from a CAD file. Today, the technology is still not widely used in industrial production, but it is gaining more and more popularity. There is a need for principles how to design electrical machine so that it would be suitable for 3D printing.
Electrical machine researchers in TalTech have been studying the applicability of the advantages provided by additive manufacturing in the research project, entitled “Additive Manufacturing of Electrical Machines”. The main goal of this project has been to prove the possibility of 3D printing of electrical machine assemblies and sub-parts, measure their characteristics and validate the applicability. The project has entered its final year and some promising prototypes as well as numerous test objects have been manufactured and characterized. The researchers are in active search for continuing collaboration and funding to further develop the field, in order to open new paradigms and make an enormous step towards the possibilities on printing a full and functional electrical machine in one printing session.
In the recently published works by the research group, significant research results in the fields of materials, losses, thermal management and optimization of additively manufactured electrical machines has been presented. Analysis of implementation possibilities of all the aspects into novel 3D printed electrical machine design is waiting to be published. Still, as the technology and the approaches applicable in the emerging field are still immature, further in-depth research is needed in order to provide valid methodologies to implement the knowledge and possibilities to agile manufacturing industry.
Professor Ants Kallaste, the Head of Electrical Machines Research Group at the Tallinn University of Technology states: “Additive manufacturing provides new possibilities as an emerging agile manufacturing industrial branch, inexistent in case of electrical machine manufacturing industry. The biggest challenge is to provide enough developed methods and methodologies in all the stages of electrical machine design, and find typical appropriate solutions that can be later standardized”.
“Only through these steps, the technology can reach to a readiness level, which allows to utilize its full potential and be usable for engineers in industry, in order to produce novel, efficient and reliable 3D printed electrical machines,” adds Toomas Vaimann, senior researcher of the same group.
The research was supported by the Estonian Research Council under grant PSG137 “Additive Manufacturing of Electrical Machines”.
Professor Ants Kallaste
Head of Electrical Machines Research Group
Tallinn University of Technology
Toomas Vaimann, PhD
Senior Researcher, Electrical Machines Research Group
Tallinn University of Technology