AI flex design boosts micromotor performance and manufacturing

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Mirmex Motor in Belgium has developed a new method of manufacturing high-power density electric micromotor windings. Seven years of research and development based around machine learning have resulted in an approach that the company says revolutionises traditional winding design and manufacturing methods for slotless permanent magnet motors used as synchronous machines or as Slotless Brushless Direct Current (SBLDC) machines.

The micromotors are constructed from flexible printed circuits and can be have the size and 70 percent more responsive with a third of the heat losses. The micromotors can be assembled 10 times faster than motors that use conventional windings made from copper wire.

“The production machines used historically are designed for a particular type of coil or for a single application. This complex process slows down prototyping and manufacturing, making it expensive and inflexible. Since micromotors are mainly intended for areas where innovation and progress are essential, we had to find a better solution,” said Dr. François Baudart, Chief Technology Officer. 

The micromotors are aimed at high performance industrial and surgical precision powered tools, active prostheses, aerospace, and robotics. The manufacturing technique allows the motors to be fully customisable using in-house software.

Traditional high-performance coils are extremely complex to design, manipulate and manufacture. Instead of winding the yarns individually, Mirmex allows new winding topologies to be printed on strips of flexible printed circuit board (PCB) material. These proprietary patterns are designed using AI algorithms and, once wound, the overlapping layers form an electric motor winding. This has been implemented in an automated process for the creation of winding topologies and validate the printing on flexible materials of winding patterns that are impossible to reproduce traditionally.

“This represents a huge leap forward for the micromotor industry,” said Cedric Van Rossum, CEO of Mirmex Motor. “Feedback from industry professionals has proven that our solution is well above market standards. We have great ambitions for our micromotors and for our innovative game-changing technology.”

The opportunity of the new patterns go beyond the shape of the windings. By varying the size, patterns, thickness or interconnections of the conductors, the achievable coils can transcend the capabilities of the micromotors. The design of the ideal motor depends on its use, its environment, and its constraints. The Mirmex Motor software develops the best composition on a case-by-case basis and is adaptable to a variety of situations due to the flexibility and high degree of design freedom offered.

The micromotor technology was developed at the UCLouvain, Belgium’s leading French-speaking university and in 2017, the team founded Mirmex Motor to continue the development of the technology and closed fundraising and subsidies of several million euros from local investors and the European Commission. The company now has a production capacity of 100,000 windings per year.

“These days, micromotors are everywhere, from drones to surgical devices and robots. The demand for micromotors continues to grow,” said Prof Bruno Dehez, Chief Scientific Advisor at Mirmex Motor. “The performance of such motors depends entirely on their copper coils. Their windings are particularly long and tedious to wind in order to obtain the best possible result. Many coils are still assembled by hand in the prototyping phase.

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