A Finnish startup is developing technology that levitates the rotating part of a motor – improving efficiency and reducing maintenance costs
Spotted: Approximately 45 per cent of electricity generated on earth is consumed by industrial electric motors. But existing designs are costly and inefficient. Together, electricity and maintenance account for 70 per cent of lifecycle costs for a motor. And metal-to-metal contact between rotating and stationary parts is a major source of inefficiency. Industrial motors run at incredibly high speeds, generating enormous amounts of friction. This makes motors more energy intensive and subject to failure and breakdown.
According to Finnish startup SpinDrive, magnets are the solution to this problem. The company’s active magnetic bearings (AMB) technology levitates the rotating parts of a motor using electromagnetic forces. This means that they do not contact the stationary parts, and friction is therefore eliminated altogether.
The SpinDrive technology has several key benefits. Firstly, eliminating friction improves energy efficiency, meaning less energy needs to be consumed to get the motor up to speed. This can, in turn, help to reduce environmental pollution. Secondly, the lack of mechanical contact greatly increases the lifespan of a motor. In fact, SpinDrive claims its technology enables 20 years of maintenance-free running.
The lack of contact also means that no oil is needed for lubrication. Oil is a contaminant, and it is compulsory for motors in many industries to be oil-free. This limits the roll-out of the highest speed motors, which require oil in the absence of magnetic bearings.
Finally, SpinDrive’s technology contains built in sensors allowing for condition monitoring. These sensors can be easily integrated with Internet of Things (IoT) services. Software analyses the data from the machine for performance and predictive maintenance.
End applications for SpinDrive’s technology include flyhweels, vacuum pumps, and electric aircraft. SpinDrive recently announced that it has secured €2.4 million in funding to finalise its core product production and control software, and for piloting the technology in new industries.
Other recent innovations aimed at improving industrial efficiency include a new manufacturing process that lowers the cost of complex metal parts, and a flexible device that turns waste heat from industry into electricity.
Written By: Matthew Hempstead