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3D Printing Enables Flexible Options for Electrical Equipment Prototype and Design

By Jim Romeo | Oct 17, 2023
3-D Printer.
Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is making rapid advances in its use for many different sectors, including many electrical applications. Slowly, but surely, 3D printing is being put to the test and is proving to be a successful means of fabricating parts and components easily, with little risk, while achieving very specific design characteristics.

Magnetic cores are commonly found in electrical systems, machines, transformers, electric motors and generators. Researchers from the Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia and the Estonian University of Life Sciences have developed methods to print the metallic magnetic cores, which enables design freedom for the cores to meet the needs of a specific requirement for electrical equipment.

Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is making rapid advances in its use for many different sectors, including many electrical applications. Slowly, but surely, 3D printing is being put to the test and is proving to be a successful means of fabricating parts and components easily, with little risk, while achieving very specific design characteristics.

Prototyping made easy

Some applications use 3D printing to print prototype parts and components that allow for trial and error. In addition, 3D printing is ideal for short-run or one-off components to be made where it would otherwise be cost prohibitive to fabricate in traditional means such as machining. Printing this way is low risk and low cost while opening a myriad of possibilities in the fabrication of components, wiring, fiber and more.

Sheffield University in the United Kingdom collaborated with researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison to 3D print a prototype of an electric motor that is lighter and more efficient and uses inexpensive materials. Additionally, as in many 3D printing iterations, the fabrication only uses enough material as needed and has very little waste.

Manufacturers embrace design flexibility

Prototyping is beneficial when different designs may be useful for a specific electrical component¾especially when fabricating such a prototype is inexpensive and fast. Schneider Electric, Andover, Mass., is using 3D printing to design prototypes using different designs and materials, allowing prototypes to be created and put to test to see if it makes sense for larger manufacturing rollouts. The company is using additive manufacturing to create new and advanced parts such as circuit breaker housing for high-voltage applications.

Connector manufacturer TE Connectivity, Berwyn, Pa., is pursuing a similar effort. It’s using 3D printing with feedstock material for the printer with specific characteristics to meet very particular and demanding UL regulatory criteria. Thanks to 3D printing and its flexibility to use materials with specific properties, they’re able to develop connector components with high tolerance using a photopolymer that helps meet UL criterion that hasn’t been so easy to achieve.

3D printing is a disruptive technology that is changing so many different industrial sectors. It allows for flexibility and freedom in design and fabrication that will undoubtedly benefit electrical contractors, designers and manufacturers now and in the future.

About The Author

ROMEO is a freelance writer based in Chesapeake, Va. He focuses on business and technology topics. Find him at www.JimRomeo.net.

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