Design Methodology and Materials for Additive Manufacturing of Magnetic Components

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Virginia Tech

Magnetic components such as inductors and transformers are generally the largest circuit elements in switch-mode power systems for controlling and processing electrical energy. To meet the demands of higher conversion efficiency and power density, there is a growing need to simplify the process of fabricating magnetics for better integration with other power electronics components. The potential benefits of additive manufacturing (AM), or more commonly known as three-dimensional (3D) printing technologies, include shorter lead times, mass customization, reduced parts count, more complex shapes, less material waste, and lower life-cycle energy usage—all of which are needed for manufacturing power magnetics. In this work, an AM technology for fabricating and integrating magnetic components, including the design of manufacturing methodology and the development of the feedstock material, was investigated.

A process flow chart of additive manufacturing functional multi-material parts was developed and applied for the fabrication of magnetic components. One of the barriers preventing the application of 3D-printing in power magnetics manufacturing is the lack of compatible and efficient magnetic materials for the printer's feedstock. In this work, several magnetic-filled-benzocyclobutene (BCB) pastes curable below 250 degree C were formulated for a commercial multi-material extrusion-based 3D-printer to form the core part. Two magnetic fillers were used: round-shaped particles of permalloy, and flake-shaped particles of Metglas 2750M. To guide the formulation, 3D finite-element models of the composite, consisting of periodic unit cells of magnetic particles and flakes in the polymer-matrix, was constructed. Ansoft Maxwell was used to simulate magnetic properties of the composite. Based on the simulation results, the pastes consisted of 10 wt% of BCB and 90 wt% of magnetic fillers—the latter containing varying amounts of Metglas from 0 to 12.5 wt%. All the pastes displayed shear thinning behavior and were shown to be compatible with the AM platform. However, the viscoelastic behavior of the pastes did not exhibit solid-like behavior, instead requiring layer-by-layer drying to form a thick structure during printing. The key properties of the cured magnetic pastes were characterized. For example, bulk DC electrical resistivity approached 107 Ω⋅cm, and the relative permeability increased with Metglas addition, reaching a value of 26 at 12.5 wt%. However, the core loss data at 1 MHz and 5 MHz showed that the addition of Metglas flakes also increased core loss density.

To demonstrate the feasibility of fabricating magnetic components via 3D-printing, several inductors of differing structural complexities (planar, toroid, and constant-flux inductors) were designed. An AM process for fabricating magnetic components by using as-prepared magnetic paste and a commercial nanosilver paste was developed and optimized. The properties of as-fabricated magnetic components, including inductance and DC winding resistance, were characterized to prove the feasibility of fabricating magnetic components via 3D-printing. The microstructures of the 3D-printed magnetic components were characterized by Scanning-electron-microscope (SEM). Results indicate that both the winding and core magnetic properties could be improved by adjusting the formulation and flow characteristics of the feed paste, by fine-tuning printer parameters (e.g., motor speed, extrusion rate, and nozzle size), and by updating the curing profile in the post-process.

The main contributions of this study are listed below:

  1. Developed a process flow chart for additive manufacturing of functional multi-material components. This methodology can be used as a general reference in any other research area targeting the utilization of AM technology.
  2. Designed, formulated and characterized low-temperature curable magnetic pastes. The pastes are physically compatible with the additive manufacturing platform and have applications in the area of power electronics integration.
  3. Provided an enhanced understanding of the core-loss mechanisms of soft magnetic materials and soft magnetic composites at high frequency applications.
design methodology, additive manufacturing, low-temperature curable, magnetic components, magnetic paste, nanosilver paste, power electronics integration