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 AM inductors include:
- Reproducible hardening results
- A 3-4 times longer service life
- Shorter setup time when using a hardening machine
- A reduction in operation and investment costs via better machine utilization
Issues with traditional inductors
The traditional manufacturing process for inductor coils relies on soldering. While this has been a tried and true method, the process is complicated and creates imperfection in the final product.
Inductor coils undergo several mechanical manufacturing steps to be produced. Their construction starts with soldering. The coils get their shape via manual bending and soldering, in whereby small pieces of copper are put together and soldered. This is a time-consuming process and incurs a heavy production cost.
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. Even experienced workers find this complicated and tricky work.
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 its producible geometries. In traditional
inductor coil production, geometry options are limited to relatively simple standard shapes. However, the inductor achieves a higher efficiency if the geometry can be created as closely as possible to the contour of the component.
Unreliability due to unpredictable service life
Because each inductor is handmade and every worker solders differently, there is also a direct correlation between the individual skills of the worker and the fabrication of the inductor. The problem for the end user then becomes how long the inductors will last. The durability cannot be predicted due to the high variations in quality and the only way to prevent service downtime is to build up a large reserve store.
Heavy setup effort
Users have considerably more setup effort with conventional induction coils because they cannot be reproduced due to their manual production.
Setting up a new inductor on the hardening machine can take up to three weeks until the series runs smoothly.
Introducing 3D printed inductors
3D printing (selective laser melting) solves the problems arising from conventional inductor production and enables reproducible hardening results in series for the first time. Inductors are 3D printed without soldered joints, require less energy, have higher efficiency, and can be hardened uniformly.
Your benefits with 3D printing
Less energy and enhanced hardening results
In selective laser melting, the metal powder is melted with the aid of a laser and built up in layers to form a 3D object. When it comes time to harden the inductor, the uniformed shape and lack of soldered joints, produces a higher efficiency hardening result with less energy. The 3D printed inductor has a higher load-bearing capacity, even at critical areas of a highly complex component geometry. In addition, the new 3D printed process produces inductor coils that won’t disturb the magnetic field normally caused by the soldering joints.
Reduction in storage and setup costs
The reproducible production of the geometry now enables a reproducible and reliable series supply. Better utilisation of the systems reduces operating costs and investment costs. Production downtimes are reduced due to the faster set-up of the inductors on the machine.
Large stocks are now not needed and consumption is reduced because inductors without solder joints wear more slowly.
Higher service life and competitiveness
3D printing is not only recommended for the production of filigree geometries, which traditionally cannot be realized, but the process is also attractive and profitable for standard geometries. Users can expect the same costs as conventionally soldered inductor geometries and eliminate all the disadvantages of the conventional soldering process.
The service life of standard geometry parts also increases with 3D printing. For example, the parts produced under the GKN powder metallurgy process have achieved up to a 400% percent longer service life.
More benefits of printed inductors include:
- Uniform shape tailored to the component
- Controlled cooling process through 3D cooling channels
- Reproducible series supply
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