Breakthrough Motor Design Concept Changes the Game for HVAC Manufacturers

UlteMAX™ Axial Integral Horsepower Motors offer manufacturers a new platform for HVAC innovation and performance with thin, lightweight designs and configurable power ratings

An innovative motor concept changing every aspect of commercial air-handling design
The traditional radial and external rotor motors in the HVAC and commercial air-moving marketplace today present manufacturers with design and manufacturing constraints: the need to accommodate large and heavy motors and stock many motor options to meet different customer specifications.

Two Regal teams, working 11,000 miles apart, were tasked to explore new possibilities for air-moving motor technology. After two years of development, their work has led to
a radically new concept in air-moving motor design, one which allows manufacturers to think differently about every aspect of product design and functionality. In December 2016, Regal Beloit introduced the first UlteMAX™ Axial Integral Horsepower (IHP) motor.

For equipment manufacturers, the UlteMAX Axial IHP motor offers a completely new path and platform for innovation and performance, with game-changing implications in terms of the new motor’s size, weight, design, intelligence and functionality across a range of power ratings.

How parallel innovations led to a game-changing breakthrough
The development of the new motor concept began in North America, where a Regal team worked on enhancing the air-moving efficiency of electrically commuted radial permanent magnet motors (ECM), leveraging the variable speed capability, higher torque and higher reliability inherent in the permanent magnet design. The team was exploring software controls that could both maximize the motor’s efficiency while expanding its variable speed capabilities, enabling HVAC manufacturers to do more with fewer motors.

Simultaneously, a Regal team in Australia was studying a motor concept that could potentially allow manufacturers to do more with radically smaller motors. In the axial flux motor concept, the magnetic field runs parallel to a typical shaft output location, rather than radially through the cylindrical rotor and stator, allowing a thin, compact design. Thus, axial motors can be made much thinner and lighter, which would make them ideal for applications where quick speed changes are required. But there were major obstacles to the commercial application of the novel motor technology, particularly for air-moving and thermal applications. Could the design be made robust and reliable enough for heavy-duty, commercial use — particularly the demands of HVAC systems? If so, at one-half the length, one-half the weight, and with a lower power demand than conventional induction motors, the commercial potential of axial flux motors would be limitless.

Swapping solutions
In 2015, the innovation teams compared notes and realized that their research was scalable. The work on the radial ECM motors, particularly in variable speed software control, was easily applied to the axial flux motor concept. With integrated variable speed control software and a new plenum fan design, the axial motor could move the same amount of air at lower horsepower. The key to making the axial motor commercially viable was changing the standard axial flux motor configuration into an orbital design. This optimized air movement without obstructing air flow by connecting hubs or parts of the motor entering into the sensitive air inlet region. The design change also simplified the implementation of electronics and controls within the small footprint, a key to high output from a significantly more compact, easily mountable motor.

The new variable speed axial design was applied into three integral horsepower motor models spanning 3 to 15 HP.

A completely new machine in form and function
With UlteMAX™ Axial IHP motors, manufacturers have a completely new way to look at the design of their HVAC and other thermal air-moving systems. Across the board — in size, weight, configurability, software controls, simplified installation and versatile motor performance — one motor concept has significant implications in product design, cost reductions and simplified implementation.

First considerations: size and weight. Equipment manufacturers have always been limited to radial induction motors; there are few if any alternatives in the marketplace. Thus, the motors are inherently large, bulky and heavy; to a large degree, systems must be designed to accommodate the motor. With UlteMAX Axial IHP motors, this design consideration changes completely. The door is open for significant optimization.

Understanding the significance form factor has to manufacturers and customers, the UlteMAX Axial IHP motor design reduces motor length to approximately four and one-half inches, compared to 14 to 16 inches in the average standard radial motor. With the compact, flat design, there is no longer a need to design around the motor, and it can be intentionally hidden inside a much smaller system.
With their slotted mounting systems, installing and configuring the motors is simple: they drop right in. Given their light weight, there’s no longer a need for a motor support base, eliminating another manufacturing cost. Furthermore, the slotted mounting system aids in the
cone-to-wheel alignment process, simplifying the rest of the design.

The weight savings are dramatic: more than 66 percent lighter than conventional radial motors in the 10 HP package. The lower weight, combined with the potential for much smaller overall systems packages, can fundamentally change the way systems are installed at an end user’s facilities, often eliminating the need for heavy installation equipment and weight-bearing mounting systems.

Three motors: one complete inventory
Another consideration: manufacturing. Today, HVAC manufacturers maintain an average of eight motor SKUs to meet the power requirements of different applications. With the UlteMAX™ motor, just three motors adapt to cover that full range of power requirements, cutting the average motor inventory in half.

The key is configurability. The variable speed UlteMAX Axial IHP motor can be easily configured on-site through integrated software to meet a wide range of speed and horsepower specifications while still optimizing system efficiency. Manufacturers can lower their SKU count and inventory costs by turning to three far smaller motors, alone or in combination.

No compromises
Another consideration: performance. With the UlteMAX Axial IHP motor, selecting
the right fan for the job can come down to one motor tailored to a customer’s applications. A 10 HP, 1,800 RPM motor can be reconfigured to the rating required by the application and multiple fans used, with the ability to limit current on the fly.

With direct power transfer, variable torque at power-up, and integrated intelligent and modular controls, the UlteMAX IHP motor is designed to optimize total integrated system performance and efficiency. Within the 3–15 HP range, the motor can scale to any specification.

This scalability means the motor can be set up and tuned to a customer’s specifications at the end of the line; systems do not have to be built around a motor. This turns the supply chain upside down; configuring the motors to system requirements is a final step, not the first design decision.
The UlteMAX motor may be smaller, but it doesn’t compromise reliability. The design capitalizes on the superior reliability inherent in permanent magnet motor technology. A metal film capacitator allows the motors to run at higher temperatures more reliably than motors with electrolytic capacitors.

Lower cost of ownership
Long-term cost savings accrue from every aspect of motor performance. The smaller, lightweight design means far less metal, and the fewer number of SKUs means less to buy and store. This also translates into simplifying — or eliminating — manufacturing processes. Smaller enclosures will mean lower installation costs. Even the simplified wiring and orbital software configuration contribute to high reliability and an overall lower cost of ownership. Adding to the lower costs: the flexibility to use fan wheels from any supplier, eliminating the costs associated
with purchasing a full assembly. Serviceability is another cost-cutting factor. The lower total equipment weight, modular electronics, accessible mounting and the capability to fine-tune motor power in the field means one technician can usually handle maintenance, with less time and labor.

Powering the future
Considering that much smaller, lighter and flexible motor technology could have enormous implications for HVAC and other OEMs, Regal pushed the first commercial application for the UlteMAX™ Axial design toward that industry. Creating a game-changing motor for challenging thermal systems is proof of concept for the axial integral horsepower motor technology. And the UlteMAX Axial IHP concept has the potential to be introduced into new areas where motor size, weight, performance, reliability and configurability are equally critical. Today, Regal design teams are working on further innovations to the axial platform, adding more power and robustness to the UlteMAX design to address needs in pumping and general industries.

About Regal Beloit Corporation
Regal Beloit Corporation (NYSE: RBC) is a leading manufacturer of electric motors, electrical motion controls, power generation and power transmission products serving markets throughout the world. The company is comprised of three business segments: Commercial and Industrial Systems, Climate Solutions and Power Transmission Solutions. Regal is headquartered in Beloit, Wisconsin, and has manufacturing, sales and service facilities throughout the United States, Canada, Latin America, Europe and Asia. For more information, visit RegalBeloit.com