Can I manufacture a motor myself?

Rob Keating

March 11, 2022

Can I manufacture a motor myself?

If you are in a position that allows you to design and manufacture an electric motor yourself, the following points are worth your initial consideration. We have broken these into four key areas:

  • Supply chain
  • Manufacturing equipment
  • Quality control
  • Certification

Supply chain
The sourcing and supplying of materials required to manufacture motors is key when considering doing it yourself. Most of the materials commonly used for manufacturing electric motors are commodities. Electric steel, magnets, copper or aluminium wire, plastic materials and parts, aluminium parts, cast iron for housings, isolation paper, stainless steel shafts, bearings, gaskets, and many more. Establishing and developing a trusted supplier network will depend on the manufacturing region, along with your purchasing power.  

Some specialised materials like soft magnetic composites, 3D printed components or rare-earth-free high-performance magnets are not commoditised and are often only offered by one company that holds a patent on it. The R&D on those components and their implementation requires more in-depth work and collaboration with the suppliers.

Manufacturing equipment
Depending on the annual quantities to be produced, the equipment needed will range from mostly manual stations with semi-automated machines, through to a fully automated production line.  

The motor type, design and integration will play a crucial role here. You will need winding machines, magnet handling, magnetizer setup (eventually), assembly stations, bearing presses, termination machines, controlled screw drivers, and parts marking. You will also need an end-of line-tester for safety and performance checks.  

The depth of manufacturing also has an impact. Do you want to cut the laminations yourself or purchase lamination stacks? Will you mould plastic parts yourself or over mould parts of the motor? Will you need to varnish components? Is there a print of sort on the motor?  

With increasing annual quantity, it is likely that you will have to set up several of the same machines. It is not uncommon to have 10 - 20 winding machines on one single manufacturing line for mass production.

Quality control
The overall health and safety of all users and manufacturing personnel is paramount. Quality Control is in place to keep everyone safe and to ensure product quality remains high. It will start with high quality at suppliers’ sites – for the materials and components they produce.  

Additionally, regularly checking the quality of inwards goods, and continuously checking what the suppliers are sending over.

Production processes must be monitored, statistical process controls set up, measurement devices maintained, and staff trained for quality continuously.  

End-of-line testing is essential and is in place to ensure the final quality, performance and noise levels are kept to the expected levels.  

Monitoring quality in the field, during and after the warranty phase gives you insights about use and improvements for the next product iteration or generation. If your product is to be IoT connected, even better! The data you gather will provide a lot of insights.

Certification
The motor, drive system and the final product might require certification or homologation. Or you may choose to get certain certification to educate your customers about safety, sustainability or CSR. The production process and its capability might need to be assessed for certification and re-certification too.

Conclusion
The process of designing and manufacturing a new electric motor can be long and complex. There are a number of basics to be covered initially, along with the possibility of any number of issues or setbacks that may arise. The quantity of units produced will have a big impact on what is required in terms of machinery, materials and commodities and your supply chain will need to be robust and reliable. All of that said, it is possible to manufacture motors yourself, provided you have all the above steps in place, along with a good contingency plan.  

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