Industrial start-up and mechatronic pioneer Mirmex Motor has developed a new method of manufacturing high-power density electric micromotor windings. Constructed from flexible printed circuits and developed using artificial intelligence (AI), the micromotors can be up to 50 percent more compact and 70 percent more dynamic than traditional micromotors. They have three times fewer heat losses and are assembled 10 times faster than most existing motors that use conventional windings made from copper wire.
Designed for use in high-performance industrial and surgical precision powered tools and active prostheses, the motors are fully customizable using a proprietary software. According to the company, motor production is greatly simplified, resulting in a quicker manufacturing time with reduced tooling costs not possible process using traditional copper coils.
“These days, micromotors are everywhere, from drones to surgical devices and robots. The demand for micromotors continues to grow,” says 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.”
The technology is primarily applicable to slotless permanent magnet motors, whether used as synchronous machines or as slotless brushless direct current (SBLDC) machines. These devices have existed for 40 years but have not seen significant innovation since their inception. While traditional high-performance coils are extremely complex to design, manipulate, and manufacture, the company’s innovation meets the demands of users looking for increased performance and the convenience of compactness.
“The production machines used historically are designed for a particular type of coil or for a single application,” says Dr. François Baudart, chief technology officer at Mirmex. “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.”
The technology is the result of several years of research, which began in 2013 at Université Catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain) in Belgium. In 2017, the research 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.
How It Works
Instead of winding the yarns individually, the winding topologies are created and printed on strips of flexible printed circuit board (PCB) material. The proprietary patterns are designed using AI algorithms and, once wound, the overlapping layers form an electric motor winding.
As a result of its research, the company has been able to implement 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. The coils made on these flexible circuits provide greatly improved performance to the motors.
By varying the size, patterns, thickness, or interconnections of the conductors, the achievable coils increase the capabilities of the micromotors. The design of the ideal motor depends on its use, its environment, and its constraints. The software develops the best composition on a case-by-case basis and is easily adaptable to a variety of situations due to the flexibility and high degree of design freedom offered.
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