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Elkem develops new iron-silicon powder for 3D printing of electrical motors

Working with partners VTT, Siemens an Stellantis within the EU-funded SOMA project

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Through the EU-funded SOMA project, in collaboration with both research partners and customers, silicone materials specialist Elkem has developed a new specialized iron-silicon powder that may allow more efficient 3D printing of components for electrical motors.

Today’s electrical motors are generally made by cutting and molding pieces from a metal sheet. 3D printing can radically increase efficiency and reduce material consumption. However, the 3D printing of larger motor parts has proven difficult as the parts become too brittle and may easily break.

In the SOMA project (Lightweight solutions for e-mobility by AM for soft magnetic alloys), Elkem together with the project partners VTT (as the coordinator), Siemens, Stellantis and Gemmate Technologies, have developed the new material for use in 3D printing.

The powder is called soft magnetic, meaning that it is easy to magnetize and de-magnetize, which is important in electrical motors. It is produced in a small-scale pilot atomiser, located in Kristiansand at the Future Materials, Norwegian Catapult Centre. The powder has been used to 3D print components for evaluation of the quality and manufacturing of demo devices. The 3D printing and part qualification have been carried out at VTT in Finland and Siemens in Germany.

Elkem develops new specialized iron-silicon powder for 3D printing of electrical motors within the EU-funded SOMA project

“This is a project with the potential to transform motor parts manufacturing. We have successfully created a new specialized powder with good printability based on silicon steel (with additives). 3D printed components show enhanced flexibility and competitive magnetic properties,” said Tomi Lindroos at VTT.

The final use case was to produce a motor for an electric scooter. The use-case was supported by modelling carried out by Gemmate-Technologies and VTT giving more novel design opportunities for electrical motor components.

“The powder developed in the SOMA project will now be introduced to the market by Elkem for evaluating the product for future commercial production. The product is currently available in small test volumes,” said Jan Ove Odden, Project leader at Elkem.

As the world shifts towards more sustainable modes of transportation, electrification has become a key priority for automakers, governments, and consumers alike. Elkem is one of the world’s leading providers of advanced silicon-based materials and will continue to provide silicon based products across mobility and transportation sub-sectors.

The 3-year project, which began in January 2021 was supported by EIT Raw Materials, funded by the EU with a total project budget of just over €5.6 million.

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites and, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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