To manufacture the high-performance magnets used in electric motors, engineers will typically use processes like powder compaction for sintered magnets or injection molding for bonded magnets. These various processes take up time and require multiple steps. A talented pair of Canadian researchers wants to streamline this time-consuming process and completely revolutionize how these powerful magnets are produced.
The hard work of both Fabrice Bernier and Jean-Michel Lamarre of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) have pioneered a new way to fabricate magnets for electric motors. The process they are using is known as cold spray additive manufacturing, which is when a material in fine powder form is accelerated in a high-velocity compressed gas jet. The stream of powder hits the substrate at incredible speeds and begins building up one layer at a time. When compared to the other forms of 3D printing methods, cold spray has extremely high build rates, which allows for increased production of magnets.
The researchers found that magnets created using cold spray additive manufacturing have improved mechanical and thermal properties when compared to conventional manufacturing methods. The high rate of speed that the material is deposited and the absence of a polymer in the material matrix leads to increased mechanical properties. The adhesion of the magnet to the part is also better because it does not require glue or assembly. One additional benefit is that they are also relatively easy to machine when compared to sintered magnets, which are typically more brittle.
Prototypes using this new magnetic material have been tested successfully and moving forward the NRC is looking into ways to use the cold spray method to enhance motor designs. The organization is also working on the development of soft magnetic materials.
The NRC recently shifted their focus to the development of electric motors as they feel there is a very urgent need for the technology. Automotive manufacturers all over the world are beginning to put more emphasis on electric vehicles. These type of magnets are critical in the production of the electric motor components which store the energy to power these environmentally friendly vehicles. This is not the only application of cold spray additive manufacturing. The new manufacturing method could have a profound impact on the production of wind turbines and telecommunication devices.
Various other organizations have been working with cold spray additive manufacturing technology to continue improving the 3D printing process. Cold spray has been used for many years to repair metal parts but thanks to recent studies and breakthroughs, it has been found to be a perfect solution for manufacturing new parts as well. The research being done at the NRC is still in the early of development but Manufacturing Talk Radio will be sure to keep a close eye on its progress so be sure to check back soon for more information.