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issue: January 2007 APPLIANCE Magazine

Motor Technology
A Natural Pairing


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Taking its cues from nature, a motor and fan system reportedly offers enhanced efficiency and quieter operation in a range of air-moving applications.

Refrigerator and freezer engineers looking for a motor system that addresses both cost and efficiency need to look no further than mother nature. At least, that was the inspiration for a new motor and fan module from A.O. Smith Electrical Products Co. (Tipp City, Ohio, U.S.), which is licensing the fan technology from PAXFan (Sausalito, California, U.S.).
According to Mark Olson, global market manager at A.O. Smith, the fan design is based on observations of the natural flow of
fluid and its effectiveness. “These observations led to the PAX Streamlining Principle, where the observed geometries were put into theories that were modeled, verified and patented,” he explains.
The moving fan utilizes an innovative blade geometry that creates centripetal force similar to forces found in nature. The fan pulls the air flow toward the center of the system, reducing friction to improve air movement. A conventional axial fan, on the other hand, creates centrifugal force to throw air out from the center, creating inefficiencies.
The motor and fan system is said to be as much as 25 percent more efficient than standard fans and typical induction motors. According to Olson, this efficiency gain could offer appliance engineers a lower cost alternative to electronically commutated brushless DC motors. The fan is also designed to create more even pressure distribution across the fan blade, reducing turbulence. This results in the same output airflow for less input power.
Olson says that while the fan is certainly a key aspect of the system’s performance, the real innovation is how the motor and fan module work together. “The efficiency gains attributed to a fan can be negated if motor speed and efficiency are not taken into account,” he says. “The fan and motor are optimized for the airflow required for the application.”
Designing the two components to work as a system meant overcoming a few engineering obstacles. “Converting the unique shape into a finished part was a significant challenge,” Olson says. “Numerous iterations of blade thickness and materials were evaluated for stress and displacement using finite element analysis (FEA) to ensure blade integrity and performance.”
The major benefit of the system’s improved efficiency is how it affects an appliance’s energy use. More efficient motors create less heat in the cooling compartment, reducing the energy required for maintaining temperature in a refrigerator or freezer.
And since noise is nothing more than wasted energy, the more efficient motor and fan combination reportedly runs more quietly than a conventional axial fan. At 0.31 sones, the fan and motor are said to generate less than half the noise of a conventional axial fan and a third less noise than a brushless DC design.
Integrating the solution into existing appliance designs is said to be easy and requires no special tooling. “The size envelope is typically identical to the existing motor fan combinations, and in some cases, can be reduced due the increased efficiency needing less motor and fan to move the required airflow,” Olson explains.
The system uses a standard C-frame motor for cost savings, but the fan can be used with an electronically commutated motor for additional efficiency.


Suppliers mentioned in this article:
A. O. Smith
 

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