Manufacturers are often seeking ways in which to evolve processes to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of both production techniques and solutions. Much of this is driven by the end user, and with electrical machines, there is a demand for greater mechanical power from more compact and lightweight devices.
In the world of electrification, mass is one of many critical performance parameters, and industry is seeing a drive towards customisation and bespoke components to deliver products sized for their specific application.
Through this project, the MTC sought to address these challenges by leveraging its own capabilities and that of its membership network and UK supply chain, to design, manufacture and assemble a high power-density electric motor prototype.
In order to best optimise the design and manufacture processes, the following areas of focus were identified:
The MTC applied simulation toolsets provided by Siemens Digital Industries to generate and optimise the electro-magnetic, mechanical, and manufacturing design of the electric motor. The toolset allowed for rapid design iterations within a digital environment, so that designers could understand the influence of manufacturing process limitations on the expected performance of the motor.
The Computer-Aided Design (CAD) toolsets also allowed MTC designers to reduce the mass of the electric motor product and validate its structure for the calculated loading conditions. The same toolsets were then used to create engineering drawings to facilitate and communicate the design intent for manufacturing and assembly.
The electric motor was first manufactured using lowcost 3D printing to create a non-functional prototype, with a view to de-risking the manufacture of expensive metallic parts. This provided designers with the opportunity to experience the physical components and make an informed assessment as to whether design changes were required. In this case, a number of bespoke tooling or fixturing opportunities were identified and subsequently created to make the assembly process safer and more repeatable.
The MTC then used its in-house subtractive manufacturing and metrology inspection capabilities to create the first, fully-functional, electric motor prototype. Having access to state-of-the-art equipment, provided by DMG Mori and Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence, gave the MTC an opportunity to critically assess all aspects of the design and manufacturing process. This has allowed further design and process recommendations to be made with a view to improving productivity, reducing costs, and de-risking the end-to-end process.
The MTC also leveraged the local supply chain in the to manufacture the components to the required standard. This included the subtractive manufacture and metrology inspection activities previously completed by the MTC, as well as the supply of specialist items e.g., electrical steels and permanent magnets. Additional manufacturing steps were also completed at the MTC e.g., automated winding of copper wires for the electric motor, with engineers collaborating throughout the full process to feedback and make design adjustments accordingly.
Assembly of the electric motor was completed within the MTC’s flexible manufacturing cell, which uses reconfigurable equipment suitable for assembly of a range of electric machines.
Specific Capabilities Included:
In this demonstration, the digital toolsets from Siemens Digital Industries (e.g., Siemens NX and Simcenter Motorsolve) supported the MTC in developing a small, power-dense electric motor capable of 18kW mechanical output in a 7kg package.
The manufacturing and inspection capabilities of machinery provided by DMG Mori and Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence allowed the MTC to rapidly manufacture, inspect, and then iterate the electric motor design.
The technologies provided by Bosch Rexroth AG also provided the MTC assembly process with intelligence and ensured ‘Right First Time’ production.
In addition, one of the key outcomes from this project is the successful demonstration of the local and UK supply chains in manufacturing high value electric machines. The programme’s prototype has since become the foundation of future research and development activities across the MTC, with a view to showcasing the capabilities of the UK supply chain.
Having access to the state-of-the-art technologies, coupled with teams of researchers and manufacturing engineers, has provided a platform for the MTC to develop and prove manufacturing processes and technologies in a low-risk environment.
This project showcases how the MTC can be the catalyst for innovative, world-leading technologies.