National Manufacturing Institute Scotland

Future Electrical Machines Manufacturing Hub

Addressing key manufacturing challenges in the production of high integrity and high value electrical machines for the aerospace, energy, high value automotive and premium consumer sectors.

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Overview

The Future Eledctrical Machines Manufacturing (FEMM) hub is a 7-year, EPSRC funding projects researching the design and manufacture of high value electrical machines. The hub is addressing key manufacturing challenges in the production of these high integrity and high value electrical machines in sectors including aerospace, energy, high value automotive, and premier consumer goods.

The Hub aims to establish electrical machine manufacturing as a leading research discipline in the UK, developing innovative processes to enhance the reliability and performance of these machines. By integrating advanced manufacturing systems and digital research, the Hub seeks to achieve ultimate control and flexibility in high-value electrical machine production. Research findings will be embodied in hardware demonstrators and modeling tools to facilitate industry engagement and technology scale-up. The Hub will rapidly transition emerging technologies into industrial applications, fostering collaborations within academic, innovation, and industry communities. Additionally, it aims to enhance the UK skills base and support the manufacturing industry as electrical machines become central to new sectors.

Work packages

 

Electrical machines design has arguably been limited by traditional manufacturing techniques, which in turn reinforces the stasis in design and reticence of manufactures to consider alternatives. In work package 1.1 we will focus on harnessing emerging and innovative manufacturing methods to realise alternative machine topologies and to demonstrate how performance, efficiency and material utilisation can all be improved if new techniques and processes are adopted.

Led by Newcastle University

This work-package aims to develop and evaluate manufacturing methods for embedding high reliability sensor system into electrical machines leading to the realisation of a step-change in the functionality and robustness of in-service monitoring systems. Routine conditioning monitoring of industrial electric machines is well-established in sectors such as in off-shore oil and gas industry where the additional costs are warranted. With the adoption of electrical machines in evermore safety critical applications - the aerospace sector in particular - there is a growing interest and research activity in innovative and robust methods for reliably monitoring the real-time health status of electrical machines with very dynamic operating cycles and rapidly changing operating environments.

Led by the University of Sheffield

The overwhelming majority of electrical machines research is directed towards the electromagnetically active elements, such as the magnets or coils. However, in terms of the overall power density, the non-active elements, namely the rotor hub/shaft and the stator casing can contribute a significant proportion of the overall mass.

This grand challenge will explore a number of alternative materials, processes, and geometries to lightweight the various structural components encountered in a range of electrical machines. We will also be investigating the possibility to integrate additional functionality into the structural components with features such as cooling ducts in casings and end-caps, and self-pumping elements in hollow shafts and hubs.

Led by NMIS

Exciting developments over the past few years have included the design of traditional electrical machines for use in cryogenic environments- mainly for use in hydrogen powered aircraft- and the further development of fully superconducting machines. Both technologies are developing rapidly, but the manufacturing technologies that will be required for each- especially when larger volumes will be required- are still unclear. One of the aims of GC1.4 is to assess the current state-of-the-art in design and material selection for low temperature applications, and link this to the manufacturing research that is already ongoing within the FEMM hub.

Led by NMIS

The sheet materials used for electrical machine cores have magnetic properties that exhibit varying degree of sensitivity to the processes involved in the manufacture of a complete stator core from the starting sheets, notably the cutting of the lamination profile, the formation of a stack and the fitting of the stack into a casing. As a result, there is a general acceptance of some loss in performance of the core material, and hence some loss in overall performance in the final machine. This project will develop, principally through extensive experimental measurements on a range of materials, a comprehensive understanding of the various phenomena in play. This understanding will provide a basis for both developing new or variations on manufacturing processes and providing a well-founded methodology for accounting for manufacturing induced degradation of core properties.

Led by the University of Sheffield

This work-package is focussed on advanced coil manufacturing techniques, in particular those which have the potential to realise high performance coils though a combination of innovation in conductor configurations and their manufacture with precision and repeatability. This work-package links closely with GC2.3 and GCX2, which are concerned with flexible automation and in-process monitoring respectively.

Led by the University of Sheffield

Current production of electrical machines occupies two extremes of scale: the ubiquitous low-cost, mass-produced machines that can be found from consumer goods to automotive and industrial automation; and bespoke and highly specialised machines, which do not lend themselves to automation, and thus are costly to produce. However, it is proposed that this gulf between mass-produced machines and bespoke machines, illustrated in Figure 1, can be bridged by imbuing manufacturing systems with greater intelligence to allow flexible manufacture of more product variants. This flexible automated production would have the benefit of reducing manufacturing costs whilst also improving on quality, thereby allowing manufacturers to capitalise on the increasing demand with the drive towards electrification to meet the UK’s goal to be carbon neutral by the year 2050.

Led by the AMRC

Electrical machines are manufactured using mostly metals and their alloys, some of which are complex in their composition or manufacturing routes. Through the design, manufacture, and maintenance of these machines, very little consideration is given to an end of life processing method to ensure a sustainable product. Unfortunately, many electrical machines are currently not reused or remanufactured, but end their life in a landfill. As the drive for electric transport and clean energy increases, a more sustainable life cycle for electrical machines will need to be developed.

This grand challenge aims to discover, assess and implement alternative, more sustainable routes for the entire life cycle of the electrical machine components, and aim to loop the materials back into manufacture at the end of the component life, i.e. develop a circular economy approach. In order to do this, a full assessment of current supply chain and manufacturing methods will be required as a basis for comparison, as well as an understanding of current reuse and recycling capabilities within the UK supply chain.

Led by NMIS

This project is centred on the numerous manual processes that underpin electrical machine manufacture, and how non-destructive testing and manufacturing digitisation methods can be integrated to provide added value to the manufacturing life-cycle. Through such technologies and methods, our aim is a zero-defect manufacturing approach in the production environment for electrical machines where we can move away from end-of-line test and towards in-process inspection, verification and digital certification of parts and processes.

Led by the University of Sheffield

The FEMM Hub has an aim of putting UK Manufacturing at the forefront of the electrification revolution. That electrification revolution is being accelerated by the global drive towards decarbonisation and the replacement of incumbent combustion based technologies for power generation and transportation with electrically powered alternatives. This transformation is the subject of legislation through the 2019 Climate Change Act, which mandates the transition to net zero by 2050 in the UK. In this document and the analysis which underpins it, the FEMM Hub investigators, researchers and industrial partners have aimed to explore what this transition to net zero means for future electrical machines manufacture, and to use this time-bound driver as the end point of a roadmap. The transition to net zero creates a set of requirements on the electrical machines industry.

Led by the University of Strathclyde

We are building a set of demonstrator machines which will allow us to compare experimentally a benchmark machine with sets of machines using the advanced manufacturing techniques the hub is investigating. With so many industrial partners involved in the hub, selecting the correct machine specification has promoted debate. Several partners would like to use their own specification but have understandable reservations on publishing commercially sensitive details. To overcome this, we have selected the well published USDA FreedomCar 2020 specification as our baseline for comparison. This also gives us the additional benefit of a wider body of research carried out around the FC2020 specification to compare our work to.

Led by Newcastle University

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Industry partners