MRO Magazine

New superconductor motor operates at high temperatures

Siemens' Research Center at Erlangen, Germany, has started up the first motor in Europe to have a winding made of high-temperature, superconducting materials. The summer 2001 project was sponsored by ...

September 1, 2001 | By All reports by Bill Roebuck, Editor

Siemens’ Research Center at Erlangen, Germany, has started up the first motor in Europe to have a winding made of high-temperature, superconducting materials. The summer 2001 project was sponsored by the federal German ministry for education and research.

High-temperature superconductors can carry high-density current with virtually no loss. Power output is more than double that of conventional motors of similar size with copper windings, while losses are halved.

Suitable applications for the compact, superconductor motor are mainly those which call for space-saving and energy-saving machines, such as on ships or oil platforms. The technology is also suitable for gas turbines, making it possible to build extremely high-speed generators which can be coupled directly to a turbine without the need for a gearbox.

Below the transition temperature, the electrical resistance of superconducting materials disappears altogether. Until now it has been necessary to reduce temperatures to minus 273C, just above absolute zero, in order to obtain the superconducting effect. This required the use of liquid helium, which is very time-consuming and costly to manufacture.


With high-temperature superconductors, electrical resistance disappears at around minus 190C. This enables virtually loss-free current conduction with a considerably lower line diameter, greater efficiency and higher magnetic field strength. The higher transition temperature significantly reduces the cooling effort required, thereby making superconductor technology an economically viable proposition.

There are also advantages for the entire mechanical structure of the drive. For instance the rotor can be smaller than in the case of conventional motors. And even the iron teeth which conduct the magnetic field in conventional motors become superfluous. The result is a considerable saving in weight and volume combined with lower noise emission.

The high-temperature superconduction technology is currently being tested with a trial motor. The rotor with superconducting coils is mounted in a motor housing with an air-gap stator winding. The rotor is cooled in a closed-circuit system. During experimental operation in motor and generator modes the trial motor has reached a continuous power output of 400 kW.

McMaster University and Dofasco Inc., both of Hamilton, Ont., have made a breakthrough in a statistical-based technology that will have far-reaching advantages not only for the steel industry, but also for many process-manufacturing industries around the world.

Essentially, they have succeeded in bringing multivariate statistics (MVS), a complex academic technology, online to predict manufacturing breakdowns and lower the cost of disruptions.

MVS adds value to the enormous pool of data collected by expensive information technology (IT) systems. MVS technology extracts information from these data pools and creates analytical and predictive models.

“Companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on IT, but less than one per cent of the data pool can be used because they don’t have the technology to properly analyze it,” says John MacGregor, a professor at McMaster’s Department of Chemical Engineering. “MVS unlocks the door on the remaining 99 per cent.”

MVS’ monitoring capabilities have been used to a limited extent within the chemical industry. The McMaster-Dofasco breakthrough represents a giant leap forward because MVS’ predictive capabilities can now be used to respond to problems before they result in production breakdowns and disruptions.

“It’s like an early warning system. MVS’ predictive capability will allow us to respond to potential problems far sooner, and to take corrective steps before production breakdowns and disruptions occur,” explains Michael Dudzic, Dofasco’s manager of process automation technology.

The technology is now being used at Dofasco’s No. 1 Caster to monitor and help prevent breakouts (molten steel breaking out of the mould). The application of MVS and other preventive measures have dramatically reduced the number of breakouts, and resulted in millions of dollars of savings a year in avoided downtime and equipment repairs, as well as increased efficiency and improved manufacturing times.

“We get a 10- to 15-second jump on something about to go wrong, which gives us enough time to slow down or take corrective action to avoid the problem,” Dudzic says.

McMaster and Dofasco have been working together over the past seven years to move MVS technology forward from academic research to plant floor applications. In addition to Dr. MacGregor, who holds the Dofasco Chair in Process Automation and Information Technology at McMaster, other key members of the team include Dr. Theodora Kourti at McMaster, and Vit Vaculik along with a group of MVS experts at Dofasco.

Dofasco has two patents pending and is continuing to work on new applications for MVS. The company is also exploring commercializing opportunities. “There appears to be great potential for most manufacturing sectors around the world, including automotive, pharmaceutical and petrochemical,” Dudzic says.

Dofasco’s product lines include hot rolled, cold rolled, galvanized, Extragal, Galvalume and tinplate flat rolled steels, as well as tubular products and laser welded blanks for the automotive, construction, energy, manufacturing, pipe and tube, appliance, packaging and steel distribution industries.


NTN Bearing Corporation of Canada Limited is offering its TEAM Program to maintenance professionals at its corporate offices in Mississauga, Ont., Nov. 19-22, 2001. The 31/2-day intensive maintenance training program is focused on improving bearing performance through problem-solving and sound maintenance practices.

The program integrates classroom lectures with hands-on workshops to train the participants in proper maintenance techniques. The session instructors are trained professionals working within the NTN Engineering and Technical Service divisions.

Some of the topics covered include: bearing lubrication, shaft and housing fitting practice, radial internal clearance, handling and storage, and bearing failure analysis.

Participants are encouraged to submit a bearing failure for examination, analysis and presentation to the class in a case study format. The course includes a tour of NTN’s bearing manufacturing plant.

The cost is $995.00, including course materials, a welcome dinner and lunches. To register, contact NTN Bearing Corporation of Canada, Roller Bearing Maintenance Seminar registration, tel. 905-564-2700, e-mail


Peel Industrial Supplies of Brampton, Ont., has recently been awarded a large contract to provide a major Canadian aerospace company with cutting tools and related MRO supplies.

To win the contract, the industrial distributor teamed up with WinWare Inc. of Marietta, Ga., to provide the CribMaster Inventory Management System as an integral part of the contract to help manage an estimated $5 million of inventory annually.

The system will help Peel Industrial monitor tool inventory and usage, track consumption and budget, issue purchase orders and provide more than 170 standard reports.

The software provides information that allows Peel to reduce inventory on-hand, stock-outs and ordering costs for the aerospace facilities.

“This contract is a huge opportunity for us,” said Reg Middel, business development manager with Peel.

Initially 37 CribMaster ToolCubes (software controlled, secure, point-of-use modular distribution devices) will be installed and operational in the third quarter of 2001. In total, it is estimated that 125 ToolCubes will be installed. This project represents the largest CribMaster installation in Canada to date. Details about the product can be found at


The first meeting of the MEMAC Council of the Canadian Manufacturers & E
xporters took place this summer at the CME’s offices in Mississauga, Ont. The meeting followed a similar format to the membership meetings held previously by the Machinery & Equipment Manufacturers Association of Canada, which merged with the CME earlier this year.

Guest speakers included the Hon. Bob Runciman, Ontario economic development and trade minister, the Hon. Perrin Beatty, CME’s president and CEO, and Jay Myers, CME’s chief economist.

MEMAC’s traditional roundtable session, where members discuss economic and business conditions affecting their companies, revealed that most of the members were experiencing a downturn and that business was not expected to pick up until early next year.

Runciman, on the other hand, told the members that Ontario’s growth rate for 2001 was estimated to reach 2.2 per cent, and was predicted to be 3.5 per cent for 2002. He added that the province has set a goal to have the lowest taxes in North America by 2005.

Afterwards, Beatty commented that lowering manufacturing tax rates was at the top of a list of five key priority areas identified by the CME. The second is the skills shortage, a problem that is expected to intensify over the next three to five years, he said.

The third priority involves innovations and productivity; CME wants Canada to close the productivity gap the country has with the United States over the next 15 years. This would require 5 per cent annual real growth, Beatty noted. Environmental quality was the fourth priority of CME, followed by a need to increase trade and exports.

MEMAC Council chairman Larry Barrett of Emerson Electric Canada Ltd. invited members to provide suggestions on future meeting formats and activities, and sought consensus on dealing with the separate industry sections within the Council, such as pumps, forestry, mining and automation. It was agreed that, in the future, all members would meet as a single group and not as sections.

The MEMAC Council is holding its annual general meeting on Sept. 23, 2001, as part of the annual convention of the CME in Montreal. For information on the council and future meetings, contact Ruth-Marie Maxwell of the CME at 905-568-8300, ext. 257. Details about CME can be found at


General Motors has developed stationary power fuel cell unit capable of providing power for a plant. The company has significantly increased the power output of its fuel cell components while dramatically reducing their size.

In a recent demonstration of the technology, Larry Burns, GM vice-president for research and development, and planning, arrived in a Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck powered by the world’s first gasoline reformer at a University of Michigan Automotive Briefing Seminar.

“Last year, when I was here to announce that GM was revving up the fuel cell race, the gasoline fuel processor was so large I couldn’t bring it to show you,” Burns said. “Today, I am happy to report that the fuel processor is significantly smaller than it was a year ago. And as an added bonus, we’ve produced a stationary power unit, which provides a new, innovative way to supply electricity to homes and businesses.”

The prototype stationary unit — capable of running on natural gas, methane or gasoline — incorporates the same fuel processor and stack technology used on experimental vehicles to convert gasoline into a high-quality stream of hydrogen that powers the fuel cell.

“In terms of power, our technology is easily scaled up or down,” Burns added. “A unit could be built to power … a manufacturing plant.”

A fuel cell used as a stationary power source could help meet the growing demand for electricity with a unit that will be only about the size of a refrigerator. It’s even possible that stationary units could be on the market before fuel cell-powered vehicles, Burns said.


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