23 Jul 2024


Robots will automate motor assembly at new winding centre

The Scara robot picks up magnet blanks from a tray

A technology centre due to open next year will help UK companies to deliver the next generation of electric motors. The Winding Centre of Excellence (WCE) is being set up by the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), part of the University of Warwick, and is being partly funded by £4m from UKRI’s (UK Research and Innovation) Driving the Electric Revolution Challenge programme. The WMG High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HVMC) is contributing a further £300,000.

As well as winding technologies, the centre will also offer other services, such as impregnation and machine-testing. It will be open to external partners and is expected to support a wide range of projects.

“We are building an internationally unique facility that will open its doors in 2023,” explains Mark Barnett, the WMG’s business development manager who is also head of business development for the WCE. “With its cutting-edge tools and capabilities, it will attract motor manufacturers looking at advancing the development of their solutions for the automotive, aerospace and many other sectors.”

One innovation that the WCE will offer is the first automated system to combine two key operations when assembling rotors for permanent magnet (PM) motors – the magnetisation and bonding of magnets. Usually in PM motors, non-magnetised magnet blanks are first inserted into steel laminate rotors. Magnetisation takes place after assembly.

To streamline the process while delivering powerful, more reliable motors with a lower risk of defects, the WCE researchers have re-arranged this process, magnetising the components first before placing them in the rotor.

The team worked with the East Sussex based systems integrator Horizon Instruments to develop a flexible robotic system to perform the tasks.

After magnets have been magnetised, they can be brittle, making the process of inserting them correctly into the steel laminate challenging. The ideal system would offer high accuracy and repeatability, similar to that provided by CNC machines. But it was also necessary for the system to be flexible enough to accommodate multiple motor shapes and sizes. This could only be achieved using robots.

The magnet insertion machine uses a pair of Mitsubishi robots – a four-axis RH-6CH Scara machine and a six-axis RV-2FR articulated arm – which offer repeatabilities of ±0.02mm. The four-axis device collects magnet blanks from a tray and transfers them to a magnetising coil. The six-axis robot, equipped with an adhesive dispensing head on its wrist joint, applies adhesive to the rotor slots. The Scara robot then places the magnets in the slots. Once all of the rotor magnet positions have been filled, the machine’s doors unlock and the operator can remove the tray and the assembled rotor, before loading new components.

Barnett says the Winding Centre of Excellence is “extremely happy” with the performance of the rotor assembly machine. “It will help us engage with key industry partners and deliver future-oriented solutions.”

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