Resins Play a Major Role in Electric Motors & their Vehicles
We’ve all heard the news. Autonomous, or self-driving, cars are coming. In the meantime, myriad electric and hybrid-powered car, crossover and sport-utility vehicles are being introducing that we still get to operate manually (for the most part), at least for now. And their motors and other electronic components, require a variety of new and innovative solutions and technologies than traditional internal combustion engines – including resins…
Resins, including epoxy resin, are categorized as part of the plastics industry. As technology makes inroads into so many industry sectors, so too do electronic components; which are frequently encased in polymers for protection from corrosion, moisture and physical damage. Plastics also provide electrical insulation, structural housing, and thermal and fire protection for electric systems and components.
As the automotive industry continues to rapidly integrate a host of electric components into its vehicles including drives, engines, and batteries; a number of new electrical systems are required as well such as transformers, high-voltage chargers, fuel cells, and current inverters and converters. The integration of these newly-introduced components means increased requirements for thermal aging resistance, insulation properties and flame retardancy – all accomplished through the use of polymers.
A huge environmental benefit of electric motors is reduced emissions, however the high-capacity batteries these vehicles require add hundreds of pounds to the weight – limiting range. The use of thermoplastics for various vehicle components reduces vehicle weight without sacrificing structural integrity. Furthermore, specially engineered plastics that house electrical components continue to provide structural integrity – even at extreme temperatures.
Electric motors (and the accompanying resin) are, of course, used in many applications aside from automotive such as household appliances and heavy industrial and military use. One company, the Ward Leonard Factory in Thomaston, Connecticut specializes in the latter – fabricating and assembling specialty motors by hand – a “painstaking process.”
“That process involves inserting copper coils into metal slots fitted with insulating paper, wrapping the ends of the coils in tape, and dipping the whole thing in resin. It is still the best way to ensure that the finished motors are able to withstand the decades of wear they will face on Navy ships, oil rigs, locomotives, freight elevators, and the like. Some motors take two workers a full week to complete,” from ‘Fine Motor Skills’ by Amy Weiss-Meyer, deputy managing editor, The Atlantic.
This Ward Leonard motor will eventually be immersed in a vacuum-pressurized tank of resin. The resin is absorbed into the tape, then hardened in an oven, creating a sealed insulation system. Making motors by hand enables a level of customization that is important to Ward Leonard customers such as the United States Navy, whose ships rely on motors that can weather harsh conditions.