How 3D printing is redefining inductor coil production
Value to our customers
The operating time and quality of manually manufactured inductors do not meet the growing demand of the industry.
Today, manufacturers can take advantage of metal additive manufacturing (AM), which offers superior parts and robust production of highly complex geometries. Some of the benefits of our AM inductors include:
- Reproducible hardening results and shorter production setup time
- Reduction in operation and investment costs (machine utilization)
- Longer service life (achieved up to 4 fold increase in service life on current projects)
- Our 98-99% copper alloy CuCr1Zr achieves electrical conductivity of 90% IACS
Issues with traditional inductors
The traditional manufacturing process for inductor coils relies on soldering. The inductor coils undergo several mechanical manufacturing steps during production. An inductor is typically manufactured from several machined components which are then soldered together.
This is time-consuming and can prove difficult to manufacture any two inductors with identical performance due to the traditional “jigsaw” manufacturing process.
Risk factors of traditional inductor coils
The more complex the geometries are, the more individual elements are required to be soldered. When there are multiple solder joints next to each other to achieve the required geometry, several soldering agents with different melting points must be used so that the first solder does not come loose while the second solder is applied.
This creates manufacturing challenges as soldering must be performed quickly. Heat will transfer to the first soldered point when soldering the second piece. This additional heat could dissolve the solder from the first point.
Performance loss and shape limitations
Each soldering point disrupts the electrical current flow and causes a significant loss of performance. The inductor’s efficiency is not only reduced by soldering joints, but also by the restriction of the inductor‘s manufacturable geometry.
In traditional inductor coil production, geometry options are limited to relatively simple standard shapes. Close coupling of inductors to areas being heat treated result in greater process efficiency.
Poor reliability due to unpredictable service life
Hand made inductors are subject to manual soldering process which can vary between skilled technicians. This variability inevitably leads to lifetime performance scatter which is unpredictable and necessitates unplanned break downs and increased number of backup inductors ready for the changeover.
Longer process setup times
Considerably more setup effort exerted with conventional inductors due to differences between same part inductors (manual assembly and brazing during inductor manufacturing process).
This leads to performance differences which need to be compensated for during production setup.
Introducing 3D printed inductors
Inductors that are 3D printed (selective laser melting) without soldered joints, require less energy, have higher efficiency, and can be hardened uniformly on production parts.
Your benefits with 3D printing
Less energy and enhanced hardening results
Selective laser powder melting builds up layers of the 3D net shape one-piece inductor. This single piece construction gives an inductor geometry with much higher strength than the conventional manufacturing process, and is far more robust against stresses during heat treatment and also during production.
The overall net effect is a higher strength inductor with superior energy efficiency during use.
Reduction in storage and setup costs
The reproducible production of the exact geometry every time now enables a reproducible and reliable production process with more efficient set-up times.
Utilization of production equipment is significantly enhanced lowering the operational and investment costs with minimal spare inductors required.
Higher service life and competitiveness
3D printing can be used for all complexities of inductors form the most simple design, through to the most complex with the benefits of prolonged inductor reliability and hence life cycles considerably longer than conventionally manufactured inductors.
GKN Additive has experienced increased service life by up to 400%.
Additional benefits of 3D AM inductors
- Reproducible serial production performance
- Uniform precision shape tailored to the component
- Enhanced inductor cooling through higher precision manufacturing resulting in high-performance 3D cooling channels
Finding the right additive manufacturing partner
If you are a manufacturer considering using 3D printing to produce your inductor coils, you need to find a full-service provider. GKN Powder Metallurgy can help you to produce inductor geometries with reproducible quality and uniform hardening results at a low cost.
Our 3D printing process can offer fully customized inductors and guarantee a 3-4 times higher service life than conventionally manufactured inductors. We ensure that the process is user-friendly and we offer ready-to-use 3D printed inductors. This includes:
- Magnetic field simulation to ensure there is no interference
- Engineering support throughout the entire process
- The entire assembly:
- Copper induction coil
- Shower, which helps to rapidly cool the workpiece heated by induction hardening
- Copper adapter plates that fix the inductor to the machine and connect the water supply for cooling channels