14. Juni 2024
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Chinas Top-3D-Druck-Wochenzeitung

Elkem entwickelt Eisen-Silizium-Pulver für 3D-Druckmotoren

Additive manufacturing (AM) has the potential to revolutionize the electromechanical industry, but the lack of materials on the market that can match 3D printed electrical components is a major challenge limiting its development. According to statistics, the electric motor (EM) and drives industry is worth €630 million in Europe and is one of the potential end users. Today’s electric motors are typically made by cutting and molding sheet metal. 3D printing can radically increase efficiency and reduce material consumption. However, 3D printing large motor parts has proven difficult because the parts become too brittle and break easily.

On January 18, 2024, Antarctic Bear learned that in order to solve the above material problems, the silicone material expert Elkem has teamed up with multiple partners to develop a new type of special iron-silicon powder that can achieve more efficient 3D printing of motor components. The research team includes:

  • Elkem (leading powder commercialization);
  • Main partner VTT (as coordinator);
  • Siemens, Germany (powder verification);
  • Stellantis;
  • Italian Gemmate Technology Company;

The team consists of several powder and electromagnetic experts who collaborated to develop this new material specifically for 3D printing motors. The project is also funded by the European Union under the title SOMA project for lightweight solutions for electric vehicles through additive manufacturing of soft magnetic alloys.

The SOMA project addresses the need for more optimized electromechanical devices for electric vehicles (e-mobility) with enhanced performance, lower material consumption and life cycle costs. This demand is driving manufacturers and the research community to explore unconventional design and manufacturing methods. Additive manufacturing technology opens up new possibilities for novel magnetic circuit designs. Early studies have shown that high-performance soft magnetic components can be manufactured by laser powder bed fusion (L-PBF) by tailoring the material composition and optimizing processing parameters, especially through post-processing. Furthermore, it was demonstrated that through topology optimization it is possible to significantly reduce the weight of the motor without compromising other key characteristics. The SOMA project focuses on upgrading soft magnetic alloys tailored for additive manufacturing with minimal amounts of critical raw materials. In addition, SOMA will demonstrate a manufacturing route that is not restricted by traditional manufacturing methods, thereby enabling breakthrough changes in design, thereby bringing lightweight and material-efficient solutions to areas such as future electric vehicles.

The new powder developed by the research team is called magnetically soft, which means it is easily magnetized and demagnetized, which is important for electric motors. It is produced in a small pilot atomizer at Future Materials at the Norwegian Ejection Center in Kristiansand. The powder has been used to 3D print components to evaluate the quality and manufacturing of demonstration devices, with 3D printing and part qualification completed at VTT in Finland and Siemens in Germany.

VTT’s Tomi Lindroos said: “This is a project with the potential to transform automotive parts manufacturing. We succeeded in creating a new specialty powder based on silicon steel (with additives) with good printability. 3D printed components show enhanced flexibility and competitiveness.”

The final application case for powder products is the production of motors for electric scooters. The use case is supported by modeling performed by Gemmate-Technologies and VTT, providing additional novel design opportunities for motor components.

Jan Ove Odden, Elkem project leader, said: “The powder developed in the SOMA project will now be brought to the market by Elkem to assess whether the product is suitable for future commercial production. The product is currently undergoing small batch testing.”

As the world shifts to more sustainable modes of transportation, electrification has become a top priority for automakers, governments and consumers. Elkem is one of the world’s leading suppliers of advanced silicon-based materials and will continue to provide silicon-based products in the mobility and transportation sub-sector.

Launched in January 2021, the 3-year SOMA project is supported by EIT Raw Materials and is funded by the European Union with a total project budget of just over €5.6 million.

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