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issue: May 2003 APPLIANCE Magazine

Motor Technology
Brushless D.C. Refrigerator Motors


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A.O. Smith Electrical Products Company (EPC) has developed two new brushless d.c. motors for the appliance industry that are said to consume less than half the energy of conventional C-frame subfractional horsepower motors.

Several design elements were responsible for the increased energy efficiency of EPC's new evaporator motor, according to Darrell Schuh, A.O. Smith Electrical Products Company (EPC engineer.

"The rotor was designed with magnetic ferrite materials, while using standard commercial grade steel laminations for the stator and an electronic control board for current control," he explains.

The new designs are intended to replace current C-frame models of evaporator motors and condenser motors in frost-free refrigerators.

Instead of relying on standard brushless d.c. technology to achieve the efficiency gains, EPC decided to transform its standard C-frame motors into brushless d.c. models. According to Darrell Schuh, engineering manager for Subfractional Motors, EPC chose this approach to provide users with a motor that would require no mechanical changes in the end unit, but would still give a substantial energy-efficiency improvement. This, he says, was not only in response to customer requests for "drop-in" replacement products, but was also part of EPC's proactive goal to develop a system that is much more efficient than other products currently on the market.

The company also wanted the new designs to help appliance producers reach the energy efficiency standard recently established by the U. S. government, and to make it easier for manufacturers to achieve and display the Energy Star(R) rating for high efficiency.

Because EPC already supplies evaporator products to its appliance customers, it elected to pursue the redesign of the evaporator motors before developing the new condenser motors. A design team made up of Corporate Technology, Electrical Products' Electronics Group, and its Ventilation and Refrigeration (V & R) Design Group worked together to develop the evaporator motors and to overcome several design challenges such as space and mounting constraints.

Corporate Technology came up with the concept of a permanent-magnet motor, using ceramic ferrite magnets, with the drive electronics mounted on the motor. The EPC Electronics Group and V & R Design Group then took those initial concepts and refined the design of the evaporator motor using new 3D CAD software.

The goal was to maintain the basic width of the motor so it could continue to use the same mounting bracket. To achieve that, A.O. Smith designers took the basic motor design, customer-supplied proofs, and 3D parts and designed a 3D motor that fit the space, while, at the same time, blocking out an area for mounting the electronics to the motor.

Pre-production prototypes of the evaporator motors have been shipped to customers, and mass production will begin toward the end of the third quarter, says Mr. Schuh.

The next phase of the redesign project is to replace the unit-bearing condenser motor with a brushless d.c. design. According to EPC, this would represent a significant improvement for customers since traditional, unit-bearing, shaded-pole motors are typically inefficient. Design plans include applying electronics to make the motors more efficient.

 

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