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An Opera motor design software package supplied by Cobham Technical Services is helping Air Bearings of Poole to extend the speed of spindle motors beyond 400,000RPM.

The package’s integrated electromagnetic and thermal simulators are being used to identify optimisations that will make the motors more compact and efficient, to improve rotational speeds beyond their current maximum.

Owned by Hitachi, Air Bearings is a provider of ultra-high-speed drill spindles for manufacturing printed circuit boards (PCBs).

Air Bearings’ products are a key element of PCB drilling machines from Hitachi Via Mechanics, which drill connection vias and holes at speeds of over 10 holes/second.

Air Bearings has started to extend the motor technologies it employs to improve efficiencies – from AC induction motors to permanent magnet types – and to explore the value of being able to optimise a wider range of design parameters.

Opera’s optimisation capabilities are being employed to help Air Bearings make the optimum design choices, helping the designers to minimise losses.

The integrated thermal modelling capability also gives the team the ability to predict temperature changes of the air-bearing-mounted rotor.

Controlled temperature performance is particularly important, because at 400,000RPM the rotors are at their extreme limits mechanically.

Opera’s integrated electromagnetic and thermal solvers are also particularly helpful in predicting and minimising harmonic losses, which can be substantial in such high-speed motors because of their solid, non-laminated rotor construction.

Opera also enables the calculation and elimination of stray losses from induced eddy currents in metallic components such as screws and rivets that are in close proximity to rotating permanent magnets.

‘Special finite element meshing techniques available in Opera assist ABL in accurately modelling and predicting the losses, and consequent temperature rise,’ said Chris Riley of Cobham Technical Services – Vector Fields Software.

‘Dynamic simulations coupled with circuit analysis are also vital for the very fast switching speeds required for the new motor configurations Air Bearings is developing,’ he said.

‘Opera-based simulation is proving to be a reliable tool for modelling the interaction of the machine and its drive system,’ Riley added.

Cobham Technical Services

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