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IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON MAGNETICS, VOL. 50, NO.

4, APRIL 2014

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Soft Magnetic Powder Composites and Potential Applications


in Modern Electric Machines and Devices
Andreas Schoppa and Patrice Delarbre
Research and Development, PMG Fssen GmbH, Fssen 87629, Germany
Powder metallurgical manufacture has the singular ability to produce net shaped products (gear box parts and motor parts) for
the automobile industry. Soft magnetic composite (SMC) powder coupled with the P/M production process open new possibilities in
the design and manufacture of parts for electrical applications. With increasing values of operating frequency, the use of SMC can
contribute to a substantial decrease of specific core losses of the machine, simultaneously increasing its total efficiency. In contrast
to laminated cores, the manufacturing process of SMCs does not influence their final magnetic properties. These properties are
homogenous and do not change after assembly of the motor. New SMC materials can outperform current laminated steel materials
when measurements are done in the same conditions with similar samples. Many of the existing prejudices about the magnetic
properties of SMC can thus be eliminated or attenuated if we respect its optimal use in adequate applications.
Index Terms Electric machines, frequency, powdered magnetic materials, soft magnetic materials.

I. I NTRODUCTION

ONTINUAL advances in the area of e-mobility and high


power density electric motors bring new challenges to the
laminated motor construction. It is well known that traditional
laminated motor construction is limited to 2-D magnetic
flux to minimize losses in the direction perpendicular to the
steel lamination. In contrast, the topologies of the transversal
flux motors require very complex 3-D magnetizing directions
where the use of electrical steels is often not practicable [1].
In addition, the use of conventional electrical steels is generally limited to medium frequency values <1000 Hz. With a
very high specific electric resistivity, soft magnetic composite
(SMC) materials act as insulators to the classical eddy current
and thus provide overall low specific core losses. The use of
SMC becomes interesting at frequency values >500 Hz [2] and
can increase the power density of electric machines. A relevant
example is the product line DYNAX of Compact Dynamics
GmbH. These SMC-based transversal flux machines can reach
power values of 2540 kW, torque of 80 Nm, and speed
of 10 000 r/min. Because of the small size and low weight
(1014 kg), these machines can be used as drives for small
electric vehicles or as generators in hybrid solutions. The
stators of these machines are technically feasible only by the
use of SMC, Fig. 1.
Powder metallurgical manufacture has the singular ability
to produce near net shaped products (gear box parts and
motor parts) for the automobile industry. SMC materials
coupled with the P/M production process open new possibilities in the design and manufacture of parts for electrical
applications.
It is a matter of common knowledge that the magnetic properties of electromagnetic components depend strongly on their
manufacturing process [3][5]. In the case of electrical steels,
Manuscript received July 26, 2013; revised September 24, 2013; accepted
November 5, 2013. Date of current version April 4, 2014. Corresponding
author: A. Schoppa (e-mail: andreas.schoppa@pmgsinter.com).
Color versions of one or more of the figures in this paper are available
online at http://ieeexplore.ieee.org.
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/TMAG.2013.2290135

Fig. 1. SMC stator of the transversal flux machine DYNAX 60i manufactured
by Compact Dynamics GmbH.

this process includes punching, various assembling methods


of laminations (automatic stacking, riveting, welding, etc.),
and pressing into the motor frame. These processing steps
cause an interior deformation of the material resulting in
deterioration of magnetic properties [6]. This deterioration can
be considerable in dependence on the size, air gap, and the
operating range of the electric machine.
Manufacturing of SMC-based magnetic components occurs
in conventional powder metal processing, which is well established for high-volume manufacturing of net shape or near net
shape complex products [7]. SMC use a processing sequence
as follows:
1) mixing of powder with lubricant or binder;
2) compacting;
3) curing at relatively low temperatures (200 C650 C).
Since the SMC-based magnetic cores obtain their final shape
after compacting and their final magnetic and mechanical

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2004304

IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON MAGNETICS, VOL. 50, NO. 4, APRIL 2014

Fig. 3. Influence of sample geometry (Epstein versus toroidal) on the specific


core loss at J = 1 T of electrical steel grade M330-35A [9].

Fig. 2.
Influence of sample geometry (Epstein versus toroidal) on the
magnetizing behavior of electrical steel grade M330-35A.

properties after curing, there is no relevant deterioration of


magnetic properties after manufacturing process.
II. M ETHODS OF M AGNETIC M EASUREMENTS
For magnetic measurements of electrical steels, the Epstein
method is widely used. This standardized method is applied
on sheet samples, which are cut longitudinal and perpendicular to the rolling direction of the steel strip. The Epstein
method was developed exclusively for quality reasons and
ignores the negative influence of manufacturing process of
electric components on their magnetic properties. To correlate these properties measured on Epstein samples with
a real motor, the designers apply various correction factors
for different types of electric machines as a solution to this
problem.
In contrast, the magnetic properties of SMC are typically
measured on compacted and annealed rings, considering all
magnetizing directions.
To ensure a fair comparison between the magnetic properties of electrical steels and SMC, the measurements were
done on samples with the same geometry (toroidal samples;
OD = 55 mm, ID = 45 mm, and thickness = 5 mm).
The influence of geometry on magnetic properties of electrical steel grade M330-35A is shown in Figs. 2 and 3.

Additional measurements on different grades with thicknesses


of 0.200.35 mm confirm this tendency.
III. M AGNETIC L OSSES OF SMC IN C OMPARISON W ITH
E LECTRICAL S TEELS AT E LEVATED F REQUENCIES
The distribution of magnetic losses in SMC cores deviates
from the behavior in laminated cores because of a different
structure of ferromagnetic material components. Because of
specific microscopic structure of SMC (Fig. 4), their hysteresis
losses are higher than the hysteresis losses of electrical steels.
In contrast, the amount of dynamic losses is lower for SMC
materials. This is a result of high specific electric resistivity
of SMC cores. For high values of (according to own
measurements of SMC is 3 103 1.3 104 higher than
of electrical steels), the amount of classical eddy-current losses
of SMC in comparison with electrical steels, according to [8]
Pe =

( B f d)2
6

(1)

where B is the induction (T), f is the frequency (Hz), d is the


thickness (m), is the density (kg/m3), and is the specific
electric resistivity ( m) which is very low.
The specific core loss of standard electrical steel grades used
traditionally at elevated frequencies: M330-35A, M270-35A,
and NO20 were compared with SMC grades Siron S280b,
Siron S300b, Siron S360, Siron S400b, and Siron S720
manufactured by PMG Fssen GmbH. The results at J = 1 T
are shown in Fig. 5.

SCHOPPA AND DELARBRE: SMPCs AND POTENTIAL APPLICATIONS IN MODERN ELECTRIC MACHINES AND DEVICES

Fig. 4.

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Microstructure of SMCs after compacting and curing [9].

Fig. 6. Comparison of permeability of selected electrical steels and SMC


materials (SIRON manufactured by PMG Fssen GmbH) at f = 1000 Hz [9].

without a typical porosity. The porous microstructure of SMC


and the resulting lower density of ferromagnetic element iron
(Fe) in comparison with electrical steels is a reason for lower
permeability of SMC. The designers, however, have to decide
whether this fact is relevant for the calculated magnetic circuit
because of the resulting ratio between the iron path and the
air gap. Fig. 6 shows the permeability of tested materials
as measured and Fig. 7 under consideration of an air gap
(1 mm = 0.6%) according to the simplified equation [8]
Fig. 5. Comparison of frequency behavior between selected SMC grades
and electrical steels at J = 1 T [9].

The frequency value of the transition point depends on the


nominal thickness of comparable electrical steel and can vary
for the typical commercial grades between 500 and 1500 Hz.
Therefore, the application of SMC becomes interesting for
machines operating at elevated frequency or for machines with
a substantial amount of higher harmonics.
IV. M AGNETIZATION P ROCESS OF SMC IN C OMPARISON
W ITH E LECTRICAL S TEELS
The magnetization process of SMC is hindered by the
typical structure of SMC including pores. The electrical steels
have a smooth microstructure with some minor impurities but

1
1
r

lL
l Fe

where is the overall permeability of the magnetic circuit,


r is the relative permeability of soft magnetic material, lL is
the length of air gap, and lFe is the length of (soft) magnetic
path (e.g., Fe).
According to this equation, the difference between the
permeability of SMC and of electrical steel becomes negligible
with increasing length of the air gap. For typical transversal
flux motors and machines with permanent magnet excitation,
the resulting air gap is substantially higher than for, e.g.,
asynchronous machines, decreasing the significance of permeability of applied soft magnetic materials.
In addition, the advantage of higher permeability
of electrical steels becomes substantially reduced with

2004304

IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON MAGNETICS, VOL. 50, NO. 4, APRIL 2014

The isotropic natures of the SMC material combined with


the net shaping possibilities allow us to introduce new 3-D
design solutions with minimal iron losses and optimized
copper winding. The ongoing development in the area of
SMCs proceeds as follows:
1) improvement of magnetizing behavior;
2) improvement of saturation polarization;
3) shifting of transition point of the eddy-current loss
(see Fig. 6) to lower the values of frequency;
4) optimal choice of application according to the relevance
of permeability;
5) improvement of mechanical strength.
These improvements are accomplished through optimization
of the compacting and curing process as well as the addition
of special binders or lubricants.
VI. C ONCLUSION

Fig. 7. Comparison of permeability of selected electrical steels and SMC


materials (SIRON manufactured by PMG Fssen GmbH) at f = 1000 Hz
under consideration of 0.6% air gap in magnetic circuit according to (2) [9].

increasing frequency. Thus, for the appropriate design of


electric machines, a combination of all factors has to be considered: operating frequency, permeability, and the air gap of
the magnetic circuit, to achieve the best possible performance.
V. SMC AS A LTERNATIVE M ATERIAL
FOR E LECTRIC A PPLICATIONS
In comparison with widely used electrical steels, SMCs
have advantages making them suitable for special topologies
of electric machines. These advantages are as follows.
1) High power density by 3-D magnetic flux conduction.
2) Lower core losses at elevated frequencies in comparison
with electrical steel.
3) Good formability complex shapes can be directly compacted without destroying the material structure and
resulting deterioration of magnetic properties.
Since the magnetic cores obtain their final shape after
compacting and their final magnetic and mechanical properties
after curing, they can be immediately wound with wires and
assembled into the motor frame. This enables the magnetic
core manufacturer to scale the design, and simplify both the
core winding geometry, and the motor manufacturing process.

Electrical machines with 3-D magnetic flux are needed


for high-efficiency motor applications. Simultaneously, new
applications requiring high operating frequencies are becoming more relevant and available. SMCs are the upcoming
development in the powder metallurgy offering optimal magnetic properties at elevated frequencies and contributing to the
increase of the power density and miniaturization of electric
machines. This makes SMC perfect for applications with
limited space, e.g., in the automotive industry, robotics, or
selected home appliances. In these fields of electrical applications, SMC can even outperform the commercially available
electrical steels.
R EFERENCES
[1] O. Anderson and P. Hofecker, Advances in soft magnetic composites
Materials and applications, in Proc. Int. Conf. Powder Metallurgy
Particulate Mater., Las Vegas, NV, USA, 2009, pp. 112.
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and electrical steel, in Proc. 2nd Int. EDPC, Nuremberg, Germany,
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[3] A. Schoppa, Influence of the manufacturing process on the magnetic
properties of non-oriented electrical steel, Ph.D. dissertation, Aachen,
Germany, 2001.
[4] W. Deprez, J. Schneider, T. Kochmann, F. Henrotte, and K. Hameyer,
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[7] Y. Guo, J. G. Zhu, J. J. Zhong, and W. Wu, Core losses in claw
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[8] R. Boll, Soft Magnetic Materials. Hanau, Germany: Vacuumschmelze,
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[9] A. Schoppa, P. Delarbre, and A. Schatz, Optimal use of soft magnetic powder composites (SMC) in electric machines, in Proc. Int.
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