VAC Anticipates Electric Drives in Aviation in 2017

February 08, 2017 by Jeff Shepard

Goodbye hydraulic, hello electric: electric drive systems and motors are becoming increasingly widespread in all kinds of areas, from robotics to motor racing. Aviation is no exception. Vacuumschmelze GmbH & Co. KG (VAC) has been monitoring these developments closely. As the developer and manufacturer of advanced magnetic materials and related products, VAC anticipates long-term growth in the use of these systems, in applications ranging from small-scale motors to electric aircraft.

“The aviation industry will undergo a technology shift towards electrification over the medium to long term”, predicts Dr. Robert Brand, Head of Strategic Marketing in VAC’s Materials and Components division.

However, the expert notes that “fly by wire” technology will initially be limited to smaller components. As resources become increasingly cost-intensive, the more economical operation of small-scale motors and generators (depending on lifespan and required output) will readily compensate for their higher purchase prices. Environmental considerations are naturally also adopting a more important role. “Lighter motors result in more dynamic systems”, advises Dr. Brand.

One possibility of reducing weight is to use VAC’s soft magnetic materials VACOFLUX® and VACODUR®, which offer greater power density. The electrical steel from which components are usually made can be replaced by a soft magnetic Cobalt/Iron (CoFe) alloy, resulting in components that are lighter in weight, yet still deliver the same performance standards. Components like these are used in high-end applications in automation, automotive and aviation.

Dr. Brand explains, “Weight has a direct impact on costs – particularly in aviation. By using VACOFLUX and VACODUR, we can achieve weight reductions of one-quarter to one-third, depending on the product and application involved. A key factor in achieving this result is that we not only manufacture the materials ourselves, but also operate the entire production chain – up to complete stator and rotor stacks – in-house, customizing our products in line with application specific requirements.”