A generous University of Wisconsin alum funded the first Wempec training lab in Madison in the mid-1980s. Now, the Wisconsin Electric Machines and Power Electronics Consortium, begun on campus in 1981, is updating it. The new laboratory should be fully operational by spring. A “teaching studio,” as professor Robert Lorenz calls it, the lab will have five stations with drives on which students will study the characteristics of seven motor varieties.
Several newcomers, including permanent magnet (both interior and surface mounted magnet types), switched reluctance, and brushless dc motors will be joining the classic ac induction, dc, and wound synchronous machines on the test benches. ABB has donated five drives for the lab, joining a donor roll that includes Rockwell Automation, Danfoss, and Yaskawa Electric Americas.
Today, much of the lab’s core work receives industry sponsorship, with most of it going for “pre-competitive research,” Lorenz says. “We do fundamental work which usually doesn’t show up in products for about ten years,” he adds.
Among the technologies born at Wempec, resonant dc links—which resonate a circuit to reduce switching losses dramatically—have become a standard in industry, Lorenz says. The lab developed self sensing motors, also.
About 20 percent of the students pursuing advanced degrees at Wempec come into the program as MEs, he says, not at all surprising considering about a third of a motor design actually concerns electromagnetics. The other two-thirds, he says, involve managing mechanical forces and dissipating heat. These students have a solid understanding of electrical machines by the time they finish the program, he says.
Increasingly, motors are being integrated into machine designs, from appliances to autos. Future designers will use integrated power converters even more than they do today, he predicts.
For working engineers wanting to get a leg up on that future, the consortium offers distance learning for all courses through a PhD—except the advanced labs. For those, off-site students visit the Wisconsin campus for 3 week summer stints—about all the time off managers will permit these days.
Wempec staff and students flank ABB’s Kalyan Gokhale (in tie), and co-directors Thomas Lipo (in blue shirt) and Robert Lorenz (to his left) during the presentation of new drives for the laboratory. The students had the drives out of their cartons and into test benches shortly after this photo was taken. (Photo Credit: ABB)
Wal-Mart will hold its second Made in the USA Open Call July 7-8, at its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. The event will be a repeat effort by the world’s biggest seller of consumer goods to increase the amount of US-made products it sells in Wal-Mart stores, in Sam’s Club members-only wholesale outlets, and on walmart.com.
From design feasibility, to development, to production, having the right information to make good decisions can ultimately keep a product from failing validation. The key is highly focused information that doesn’t come from conventional, statistics-based tests but from accelerated stress testing.
There’s a good chance that a few of the things mentioned here won't fully come to fruition in 2015 but rather much later down the line. However, as Malcolm X once said, "The future belongs to those who prepare for it today."
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