22 Jul 2024


Sumitomo buys US developer of spray motor technology

Shunsuke Betsukawa: accelerating growth

Japan’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries (SHI) has acquired a US start-up, Persimmon Technologies, which is developing a “disruptive” electric motor manufacturing technology in which metallic particles are sprayed to form composite components that are used instead of conventional laminated cores. The magnetic composite cores suppress eddy currents and are claimed to have 40% higher power densities and up to 15% lower energy losses than today’s best motors.

Massachusetts-based Persimmon also develops clean, reliable vacuum robotics for handling wafers in semiconductor manufacturing. SHI hopes that the acquisition will drive growth in its semiconductor-related businesses, including cryo-pumps and XY stages.

It also plans to use Persimmon’s “hybrid-field” motor technology to expand its activities in areas such as gear reducers for industrial robotics and plastic extrusion machinery.

SHI is paying 3.6bn Japanese yen ($33m) for Persimmon, which has 29 employees. “The acquisition will expand our product line and accelerate the growth of our company in semiconductor-related fields and new markets,” says SHI’s president and CEO, Shunsuke Betsukawa.

Persimmon’s president and CEO, Michael Pippins, adds that he is “thrilled to become part of a $7bn organisation with such a strong global presence and balance sheet. SHI is positioned to invest heavily in our hybrid-field electric motor technology and expand our robot manufacturing capacity.

“The merger will also enable us to take advantage of the massive market potential for hybrid-field electric motors in rapidly-growing electric vehicle and industrial robotics markets,” he continues.

Persimmon has been developing its motor manufacturing technology since its launch in 2011. “Our technology offers a new approach to making electric motors using an additive manufacturing process that significantly increases power density, eliminates multiple production steps and reduces costs,” explains Dr Martin Hosek, the company’s vice-president and chief technology officer. “Being part of SHI will allow us to step up the pace of technical development and further expand our portfolio of world-class products.”

Persimmon’s developments have been backed by several grants from the US National Science Foundation as well as investment from ABB Technology Ventures.

In the spray-forming process, metals are sprayed as droplets in a reactive atmosphere to form shaped components made up of tiny grains separated by thin insulating layers. The process can produce components ranging in size from a few millimetres to more than a metre, and can deposit up to 25kg of material every second – more than 100 times faster than conventional 3D printing techniques. Unlike silicon steel laminates, the composite cores allow magnetic flux to travel in any direction, while the insulation between the grains eliminates eddy currents.

Persimmon says the process could lead to smaller, lighter, lower-cost and higher-output motors.