Categorized | Concept, Machines, Miscellaneous

Now Faster Than Ever, Thanks to… Electricity


a drillWhen we think about mind blowing speed, lets be honest, we tend not to think about electricity. Maybe because of all of the propaganda out there about electric cars, or maybe because electricity conjures up so many other images first, like the lights that go on at home or giant bolts of lightning, which by the way are actually pretty fast. So, it probably should not be a shocker (OK I promise no more puns) that electricity just helped to break a new world speed record.

In order to drive these rotary applications directly, efficiently and in a controlled fashion, there must be electrical drive systems with the appropriate rpm and engine power. Up to now, industrially-deployed motors have normally reached 250,000 revolutions per minute. Now, however, researchers from ETH Zurich’s Department of Power Electronics have developed a drive system in cooperation with its industrial partners that can achieve over 1,000,000 rpm.

Of course, this speed record was set in a lab, not on a track and it’s more to do with revoltions than it is with MPH, but still, you may at some point find it driving down the street next to you, or even in the sky above you. In future it can be expected that the drill used in material processing will become even faster and the compressor used for vehicles and airplanes even more compact.

Of course, you may end us seeing it used to make the technology in the palm of your hand too. Based upon the results of this research, Christof Zwyssig and Martin Bartholet, also a post-graduate in the same department, founded the spin-off company, Celeroton, in August 2008. It will make the lab partners industrially viable with a view to providing ultra-high revolution electrical drive systems for different branches of industry and areas of application. Celeroton is set to become a supplier for manufacturers of, for example, fast-spinning drill or milling machines.

The trend towards increasingly smaller cell phones and other electrical appliances means that increasingly smaller holes have to be drilled for the elec-tronics. This is only possible using a drive system that boasts a high rotational speed. “In my view, a spin-off company is the most direct way of transferring research results to industry. Our findings will rapidly be converted into concrete applications and products,” explains Johann Kolar, Head of the Department of Power Electronics.

Now you are wondering how big this thing that it can drill tiny holes in the cell phones of the future. The new drive system, which generates an output of 100 watts, is barely bigger than a matchbox.

As for construction, the recipie goes a little something like this, The rotor construction has a titanium shell that is able to withstand extreme centrifugal forces and the ball bearings are optimized for extremely high speeds. Ultra-thin copper wire is used for the windings which are inserted in a cylinder made of special iron previously unused for machines. In addition, the machine is fed by electronics specifically designed for such engine speeds.

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