Process and control today | Portescap’s New Miniature Engine R&D Facility Increases Customization Capability

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The design and development of miniature motor motion solutions are integral to applications ranging from medical equipment to robotics to industrial power tools, in environments that demand performance and reliability. Concept design, development and testing must not only be rigorous and tailored to specific application conditions, but must also be fast enough to meet the needs of demanding markets. As a result, Portescap, which develops miniature motors for global OEMs, has bolstered its R&D capabilities by establishing a new engineering lab.

The Covid-19 pandemic meant a quick response was needed. A key requirement for the medical care of patients who had contracted the virus was the use of ventilators, and with high and urgent demand, new machine designs were needed to quickly fill the void. A fan OEM in India turned to the Portescap team in Mumbai for a fast yet reliable motion solution. The company’s new engineering lab was recently brought online at Portescap’s facilities in Mumbai, enabling the rapid design, testing and production of a miniature brushless, slotless DC motor ( BLDC).

“While Portescap has expertise and R&D facilities in Switzerland, the United States and India, the new engineering lab in Mumbai has enhanced the company’s ability to rapidly develop new products for production, which which means faster time to market for our customers”, says Dheeraj Saxena, global head of research and development at Portescap.

The new engineering laboratory was developed to improve the design of miniature motors in world markets. Conveniently located close to the company’s Indian production facility, the expertise of the Mumbai Engineering Lab team will develop solutions for Indian customers selling globally, while supporting the company’s international R&D capability. that creates products for use around the world.

The facility will develop miniature engines to standard designs for large-scale markets, where the Mumbai team will support Portescap’s global R&D capability to bring new products to market. In addition, the engineering lab particularly focuses on custom OEM projects.

“Our DNA is to provide custom motion solutions, and that’s where we work closely with customers,” said Dheeraj. “The Swiss and US teams have their own expertise, and the new engineering lab in Mumbai will support the development of personalization for customers around the world.”

In the United States, Portescap is focused on designing and developing custom slotted BLDC motion solutions to maintain its leadership position in the surgical motion solutions market. Meanwhile, Portescap’s Swiss team designs and develops BLDC slotless motion solution motors manufactured in Mumbai.

The new engineering lab means the Mumbai team will now also support BLDC slotted flat motion solutions for the global robotics and surveillance market, in addition to its expertise in DC motion solutions and step by step. This covers applications such as surgical robots and surgical tools, ventilators, medical infusion systems, as well as industrial power tools. The facility will also focus on emerging markets, allowing Portescap to use its technology to meet new demand, as part of the company’s “Dream, Develop, Deliver” concept.

“Our approach covers theoretical designs and prototyping through to manufacturing. This helps us create the best performing and most reliable motion solutions for compact applications, and also allows us to accelerate the development of a miniature motor assembly for the benefit of our customers. The new laboratory is an integral part of this,” explains Dheeraj.

The proof of concept stage is important for standard products but crucial for custom development. As part of this, the new lab in Mumbai includes in-house 3D printing, allowing the team to quickly create and test designs. This can involve customizing off-the-shelf parts for fast delivery, using existing projects from the company’s customization portfolio, or creating entirely new designs.

“With 3D printing, we’ve been able to make parts that would have been difficult to make otherwise, especially at high speeds and using new materials, so the ability to do this in-house is definitely beneficial to our customers for a development quick”, said Dheeraj. “The new lab’s capabilities will also help our global teams receive prototype parts from our Mumbai plant faster, accelerating application development worldwide.”

To validate concepts and prototypes for production, the Mumbai Engineering Lab includes testing on all characteristics of miniature motors, such as performance, torque and noise, as well as life tests to ensure reliability at long-term motors for critical applications. Specific to Portescap’s customization philosophy, the new laboratory is also capable of recreating field conditions for dedicated applications. Simulation techniques in virtual and real situations include aspects such as direction of rotation with varying load.

“Portescap typically uses its own design and test methodology for performance and life testing, tied to the duty cycle of a specific application”, explains Dheeraj. “We try to model the performance and reliability characteristics as closely as possible, based on customer feedback, our analysis of the existing application, as well as our experience of previous similar examples. The results are very realistic compared to actual use in the field.

The new lab’s facilities include a climate chamber for testing a motor against various temperatures and humidity, as well as an autoclave tester for sterilization applications such as surgical hand tools. The lab also includes an NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) chamber for analysis over different duty cycles. In addition to the latest testing technology, facilities require subject matter experts to optimize procedures.

“Our subject matter experts cover aspects such as transmission and gear noise, electromagnetic designs, materials and reliability,” explains Dheeraj. “Thanks to their experience in analytical procedures, these experts allow us to bring a product to market more quickly. Likewise, this capability is also focused on solving problems for specific customers, such as simulation techniques and acoustic modeling, enhancing our bespoke application validation capabilities.

Adding to the capabilities of the facility, the new engineering lab is significantly larger than the team’s former site in Mumbai. This brings greater product and composite testing capability, which means applications can be validated for customers at a faster rate.

“The Portescap teams in Switzerland and the United States have excellent laboratories with staff for design and prototyping. With the new facility and subject matter expertise from India, we complement our global team,” said Dheeraj. “We operate as one team, solving problems to accelerate customer solutions to market. The new lab is part of an evolutionary development that will see Portescap solving customer challenges in the future.

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