SaaS Design Is Vital to Next-Generation Electric Motors

An overlooked trend in global markets is the growing demand for specialized electric motors.

November 8, 2022

5 Min Read
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Image courtesy of ECM

Brian Casey, President & CEO of ECM PCB Stator Technology

The world is rapidly electrifying, and as a result, more of the things we use are electrifying. From e-bikes to home appliances, much attention is paid to the batteries and operating systems of these products. What shouldn’t be missed, however, is the fact that all these devices need electric motors. Over the coming decade, the world is going to require a whole lot of electric motors of a very different variety than the clunky, inefficient offerings of the past.

This may sound like a hardware challenge, but like many real-world problems, the solutions actually lie in code. SaaS design will play a critical role in meeting the needs of next-generation electric motors. Before elaborating on that, some market and technical context are in order. There are several underlying currents driving the surge in next-generation electric motor demand.

In 2021, the number of electric motors produced annually surpassed one billion, according to Future Markets Insight. Additional analysis indicates the necessity and applications for these machines won’t slow any time soon. A 2022 study by Allied Market Research forecasts the yearly value of the electric motor industry will double from $106 billion in 2021 to over $200 billion in less than a decade.

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Both sources project this booming electric motor demand will occur in a long list of verticals: HVAC equipment, e-mobility, consumer electronics, household appliances, robotics, medical devices, aerospace, defense, and unmanned vehicles—you name it.

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What’s propelling this trend? An obvious catalyst is the conversion of many of these categories—such as mobility and heating—from fossil fuels to electric energy. An additional driver is the surge of robotics and automation across multiple sectors. And a third factor spurring global electric motor need is the push—cheered on by policy and environmental advocacy—to convert more of our energy to electricity in a bid to decarbonize energy grids.

At ECM PCB Stator Technology we’ve done internal research to determine what kind of machines will best serve this electrified future. A predominant conclusion: the world won’t simply need more electric motors. Global markets will require next-generation electric motors that are more efficient, better performing, bespoke, and produced more sustainably.

Transforming the Grid

Two supporting factors for this assessment are greater use-case specialization and the transformation of energy grids. The expansion of so many electric devices across more verticals is creating the need for greater customization around electric motor performance specs and design parameters. For example, off-the-shelf, cookie-cutter motor varieties won’t serve the innovation requirements of surging industrial automation and robotics.

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Another factor supporting the necessity for more efficient, next-generation motors is the increased pressure on the U.S. energy grid to generate more electricity, while reducing carbon emissions. This is where novel electric motor tech connects to sustainability.

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Electric motor systems in the U.S. are estimated to consume over half of all electricity, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. By the same source, the average efficiency of these motors is approximately 75 percent. Meanwhile, only 20 percent of electricity generated in the U.S. in 2021 came from renewable (carbon neutral) sources, per the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

There’s certainly room for more empirical research, but hypothetically, an improvement of 10 to 15 percent in average electric motor efficiency across the U.S. could go a long way toward lowering energy costs for individuals and companies, while reducing electricity demands on the U.S. grid as it transitions to a higher percentage of clean sources.

A large portion of those gains can come from upgrading legacy commercial infrastructure, particularly in the HVAC sector, with more efficient electric motor systems. Beyond this, however, there’s a more complex energy and design equation to solve. How do we satisfy the supply needs of a world projected to demand over a billion electric motors annually with very specific requirements across thousands of applications?

Traditional Motors Won’t Cut It

Part of the answer lies in accepting that traditional electric motors aren’t up to the task. Conventional machines, such as AC, DC, and hermetic units, rarely reach efficiency rates above 75 percent. These electric motor classes are bulky, and loud, require a lot of raw materials to produce and are more costly and complicated to manufacture and dispose of.

In ECM’s view, supplying the world with billions of specialized, energy and space-efficient electric motors comes down to two things: better technology and SaaS design. On the technology side, we’ve specialized in the development of axial-flux printed circuit board—or PCB Stator—electric motors. ECM’s PCB Stators replace the copper windings found in conventional electric machines with an ultra-thin stator. This PCB Stator becomes the central component for optimally converting electric energy into mechanical energy in voltage-powered systems.  

As a result, ECM motors incorporating printed circuit board stators are smaller, 70 percent lighter, achieve efficiencies of up to 96 percent, and use up to 80 percent less raw materials than conventional machines—such as AC, DC, and hermetic units. 

To create custom-fit motors to precise performance specs and dimensions, ECM turns to software. Specifically, we’ve developed a proprietary platform called PrintStator. Using PrintStator, ECM’s in-house engineers have been able to rapidly design, model, and prototype optimized printed-circuit-board stator electric motors to exact specs for multiple use cases. These include applications for blue chip corporations, governments, small businesses, gaming companies, innovators, disruptors, and startups—to name a handful.

All that said, there are only so many units the ECM team can design and produce in a world that will require hundreds of millions of highly specialized electric motors a year. That’s why we believe meeting next-generation electric motor needs across a wider range of the earth’s economic and energy infrastructure lies in software as a service.

The right SaaS design platform can offer legions of innovators the ability to model, prototype, and manufacture bespoke electric motors across multiple sectors. For ECM’s part, we plan to offer PrintStator to the public through a SaaS model in 2023. There are certainly other actors out there that could extend their own offerings.

In the long run, SaaS design could be the most viable means to meet the world’s surging electric motor needs at scale.

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