New Electric Motor Tech Spins With No Magnets

When you think of electric motors, you usually think of magnets. But magnets are heavy, and good magnets can pose problems when you need lots of them. A technology called SESM (separately excited synchronous motors) requires no magnets, but now ZF — a German company — claims to have a different scheme using inductive excitation. Motors that employ SESM tend to be larger and require a direct current to turn the rotor. This DC is often supplied by slip rings or an AC induction with a rectifier. The innovation here is that the inductive excitation is built completely into the shaft, which the company claims makes the motor both compact and powerful.

This kind of motor is usually destined for electric vehicles. The company claims the motor reduces losses by about 15% over conventional techniques. To maximize efficiency, conventional SESM uses slip rings or brushes to transmit power to the shaft. However, ZF claims their inductive improvements are even more efficient and can reduce axial size by around 90 mm.

Another advantage of the technology is that there is no need to provide a dry space for slip rings. That means fewer seals and the ability to cool the rotor with oil as you would with a motor containing permanent magnets. The company plans to offer a 400 V version of the motor and an 800 V that uses silicon carbide electronics.

If you build your own motors, have you tried anything like this? Usually, we don’t see motors this big, of course. We have, however, seen builds of reluctance motors that don’t use magnets.

Hands-Free Compass Uses Haptic Feedback

If you’ve never experienced it before, getting turned around on a cloudy day in the woods or getting lost during an event like a snowstorm can be extremely disorienting and stressful — not to mention dangerous. In situations where travel goes outside the beaten path, it’s a good idea to have some survival gear around, including a good compass. But if you need your hands for other things, or simply don’t want to have to stop often to check a compass, you might want to try out something like this belt-mounted haptic feedback compass.

The compass is based around a Raspberry Pi Pico microcontroller and uses a ULN2803a transistor array chip to control a series of motors. The motors are mounted all along a belt using custom 3D printed clips with wires woven to each through the holes in the belt. The firmware running on the belt communicates with an Android app via USB to control each of the motor’s vibration based on the direction the wearer is traveling and their desired heading. With certain patterns, the wearer can get their correct heading based on the vibrations they feel through the belt.

While it does rely on having a functioning phone, a modern smartphone’s built-in compass doesn’t require a signal to work. We would still recommend having a good simple compass in your pack as backup if you’re going to be far off the beaten path, though. There are other ways of navigation besides by compass, map, or GPS too. Have a shot at inertial navigation if you want a challenge.

Thanks to [Peter] for the tip!

You Can 3D Print A 12,500 RPM Brushless Motor

Typically, when most of us need a motor, we jump online to order one from a catalogue. [Levi Janssen] recently had to build his own for a college project, however, and learned a lot along the way.

[Levi] whipped up his brushless DC motor design in OnShape. The motor has six coils in the stator, with the rotor carrying eight neodymium magnets. It’s an axial flux design, with the rotor’s magnets sitting above the coils. This makes construction very easy using 3D printed components. Axial flux motors also have benefits when it comes to power density and cooling, though optimization is outside the scope of [Levi]’s work here.

[Levi]’s video covers both the development of the motor itself as well as the drive circuit, too. The latter is of key value if you’re interested in the vagaries of driving these motors, which is far more complex than running a simple brushed motor. He even gets his motor up to 12,500 rpm with his homebrewed drive circuit.

Making your own motors can help you solve some difficult engineering challenges, like building motorized rollerblades. Alternatively, if winding coils sounds too slow and too hard, you can just use off-the-shelf gear and hack it to make it work. Here, we support both methods.

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What Makes Wedge Coils Better Than Round For PCB Motors?

PCB motors are useful things. With coils printed right on the board, you don’t need to worry about fussy winding jobs, and it’s possible to make very compact, self contained motors. [atomic14] has been doing some work in this area, and decided to explore why wedge coils perform better than round coils in PCB motor designs.

[atomic14]’s designs use four-layer PCBs which allow for more magnetic strength out of the coils made with traces. While they’ve tried a variety of designs, like most in this area, they used wedge-shaped coils to get the most torque out of their motors. As the video explains, the wedge layout allows a much greater packing efficiency, allowing the construction of coils with more turns in the same space. However, diving deeper, [atomic14] also uses Python code to simulate the field generated by the different-shaped coils. Most notably, it shows that the wedge design provides a significant increase in field strength in the relevant direction to make torque, which scales positively on motors with higher numbers of coils.

This kind of simulation and optimization is typical in industry. It’s great to see an explainer on real engineering methods on YouTube for everyone to enjoy. Video after the break.

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Cart Cruises Abandoned California Rail

Southern California is known for its nearly perfect year-round climate, excellent surf, and extremely high cost of living, but once you get away from the coast things are radically different. Rural California has huge tracts of land run by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which is publicly accessible to anyone willing to venture into the deserts. There’s not much in the way of infrastructure out there, but [Ryan] does have a unique way of traveling through it using abandoned railroad lines and this custom rail cart.

The frame of this cart is simple enough, it’s little more than 2×3 framing with a plywood deck. Some extra support is added for the motor mount and for the seating location. It uses slightly longer go-kart axles to accommodate the width of the railroad, and a small six horsepower gas engine with a single gear to power the rear axle. There are no brakes other than the riders’ shoes, and while this all seems straightforward enough the real hack here is [Ryan]’s custom wheels. He found that steel or cast wheels were not particularly comfortable on long journeys so after a few attempts he has come up with a home-built polyurethane wheel which is cast in a mold around a steel go-cart wheel and then trimmed on a lathe.

For pure exploration, there’s almost no better place to go than the American west thanks to all the public BLM land available. In this cart, you can explore long distances using an extremely low-cost method of transportation. We’ve added another video of [Ryan] exploring this area below the break to show the cart being used, too, but if you’d like a more multipurpose vehicle to use on abandoned rail near you, take a look at this bicycle which is converted to operate on the railroad.

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This Electric Outboard Conversion Makes For A Quiet Day On The Water

Nothing beats a day on the lake in a little boat with an outboard motor putt-putting along behind you. It’s great fun, if perhaps a little noisy with all that putting going on. And maybe that oily sheen on the water in your wake is not so nice. it could be that the fish are a little annoyed with your putting, too. Come to think of it, outboard motors are a bit of a problem.

Fortunately there’s a better way, like converting an old outboard motor to electric. It comes to us by way of [Anton], who happened upon the perfect donor platform — a 5-hp outboard by Crescent, sporting a glorious 1970s color scheme and a motor housing shell perfect for modding. He started by ripping the old engine and drivetrain out of the housing to make room for the BLDC motor and its driver. The motor was a project in itself; [Anton] rewound the original stator with much thicker wire and changed the coil configuration to milk as much torque as possible out of it. What started as a 180-kv motor ended up at 77 kv with much more copper and new Hall sensors for the controller. He also put a ton of effort into waterproofing the motor with epoxy resin. With a 3D-printed prop and a streamlined fairing, the new motor looks quite at home on the outboard. In fact, the whole thing barely looks customized at all — the speed control is even right on the tiller where you’d expect it.

The video below shows the build and a test run, plus an analysis of the problems encountered, chief of which is water intrusion. But as [Anton] rightly points out, that’s easily solved by reusing the original driveshaft and mounting the motor above the waterline, like this. Still, we like the look of this, and the idea of knocking around on the water nearly silently seems wonderful.

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Wow! You Could Have A (Tiny) V8!

If you grew up before high gas prices and strict emission control regulations, you probably had — or wanted — a car with a V8 engine. An engineering masterpiece created in France, it would define automotive power for the best part of a century. Of course, you can still get them, but the realities of our day make them a luxury. [Vlad] shows us his latest Christmas list addition: a fully-functioning but tiny V8 — the Toyan FS-V800 that has a displacement of two centiliters.

It runs on R/C nitro fuel and is claimed to be the world’s smallest production V8. You can buy the thing built or as a kit and we suggest to protect your street cred, you claim you bought the kit even if you go for the assembled version. The cylinder bores are 17 mm and 16 tiny valves regulate the flow. There are even tiny mufflers for the manifold exhaust. [Dennis] has a video of his operating that you can see below, and his YouTube channel has a lot of information on building the kit and some modifications, too.

Cooling? Water-cooled, of course. The manufacturer claims the engine can rev to 12,500 RPM and can produce over four horsepower. The total size would allow it to fit easily in a five inch cubical volume. You could build it into something, or just display it as a conversation piece. Be prepared for sticker shock, though. We hear the going price for these is about $1,500.

If you’re a bit short on cash or would rather just play with some pretend ponies, this impressive open source engine simulator might be just what you’re looking for.

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