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Finite-Element Models for Electrical Machines

T. Busch, G. Henneberger
Schinkelstrasse 4
D-52062 Aachen, Germany
Phone: +49 241 80 9 7636 / Fax: +49 241 80 9 2270

Electrical Machines, Modelling, Permanent magnet motors, Machine tool drives, Transversal flux

After a brief introduction, several examples of the use of Finite-Element models for Electrical
Machines are described by means of research works carried out at the Department of Electrical
Machines (IEM), Aachen Institute of Technology (RWTH), Germany. Static torque calculations with
large Finite-Element models are as well presented as transient calculations of eddy currents [1].
Another topic is a calculation procedure to determine the mechanical and acoustic behaviour of
electrical machines [2]. Finally a coupled simulation to calculate the dynamic behaviour is outlined,
where two-dimensional Finite-Element calculations are coupled with physical machine models.

The development of electromagnetic devices as machines, transformers, heating devices and other
kinds of actuators confronts the engineers with several problems. For the design of an optimized
geometry and the prediction of the operational behaviour an accurate knowledge of the dependencies
of the field quantities inside the magnetic circuit is necessary. The losses in the device have to be
calculated for the construction of a suitable cooling system. If the noise has to be taken into account,
the acoustic behaviour has to be predicted.

The physical correlations like the Maxwell equations are well known for many years, but the
analytical calculation methods forced a lot of neglect and simplifications. Corrections factors
were determined by practical experience to consider miscellaneous effects. Upcoming in the
seventies of the last century, the Finite-Element Method (FEM) is today state-of-the-art for
the calculation of structural-dynamic, thermal and, of course, electromagnetic problems. With
the improvements of the performance of personal computers and workstations the models
have become three-dimensional with the number of elements increasing. The bandwidth of
possible applications is advancing steadily and research projects are opening up new
perspectives for the development of electrical machines.

Static and transient Finite-Element calculations of the electric and magnetic field enable the designers
to optimize well known electro-magnetic devices with regard to the torque-to-mass ratio and the
dynamic, thermal and acoustic behaviour. Furthermore, the Finite-Element method approves, the
development and optimisation of new devices without the necessity of extensive prototyping.

In this paper the design of new machines is demonstrated for a spherical motor and a transverse flux
machine as well as the optimisation of well known machines with new tools. Here, a claw-pole
alternator and a permanent-magnet synchronous machine are acoustically and electrically simulated.

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Spherical motor
The spherical motor is a multi-coordinate direct drive with three degrees of freedom [3]. The spherical
rotor is able to rotate in three axes, a rotation ϕ around the vertical axis and a declination in γrot- and
ϑ rot- direction (Fig. 1). Possible applications are machine tools and robotic devices, utilising the
advantages of this high-dynamic direct drive which contains no mechanical transmission elements like
gears. The motor consists of a permanent-magnet rotor sphere and a stator hemisphere with a large
number of stator poles. The guiding of the rotor is realised by a hydrostatic bearing to achieve high
stiffness and low friction. The stator hemisphere and the stator poles are made of a soft-magnetic
composite to reduce eddy-current losses. The arrangement of the poles has a decisive influence on the
torque characteristic. The current-dependent torques are calculated with a combined
numerical/analytical method [4]. The static cogging torques have to be calculated with a Finite-
Element-model of the complete motor geometry.



rotor sphere ϕ

stator poles permanent magnets

stator hydrostatic bearing

Figure 1: Basic structure of the spherical motor

Combined numerical/analytical calculation method

Looking at Fig. 1, one can imagine, that the motor geometry causes large Finite-Element models with
high element numbers. As a result the meshing and computational time is very high. Therefore it is not
reasonable to calculate the torques with a Finite-Element model of the whole geometry for different
cases of current supply in order to optimize the stator pole arrangements. Otherwise the geometry is
too complicated to calculate the torques in an analytical way. Therefore a combined
numerical/analytical calculation method has been developed for the calculation of the total current-
dependent torques of the spherical motor. The four most important steps of the method are:

• Preparation of a Finite-Element model of one stator pole with its nearest neighbours and
appropriate rotor magnets

• Numerical calculation of the current-dependent thrust forces of this stator pole

• Approximation of the thrust-force characteristic using trend functions

• Analytical calculation of the total torques using the trend functions.

Five different spherical Finite-Element models were created to investigate the thrust forces caused by
a current injection to one pole in the model. The models consist of 7 up to 9 poles and differ in the
positions of the neighbouring poles, which surround the pole carrying the current. Fig. 2 shows the
model in case that this pole is located at the border of the stator sphere.

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pole (carrying the current)
stator yoke stator pole

permanent magnet ϕrel

ϑrel rotor yoke

Figure 2: Finite-Element model of a motor section (mesh not displayed)

The thrust forces have been computed with a solver package developed at the institute [5]. Fig. 3
shows the calculated ϕ- and ϑ-components of the thrust force of the spherical motor. They result from
the difference of a calculation at a current of 4 A and a calculation at 0 A, so they do not include the
cogging forces.

Figure 3: Calculated thrust forces Fϕ and Fϑ

It is assumed, that the generated thrust force of one stator pole only depends on the position of this
pole above the permanent magnets in the rotor and not on the positions of the neighbouring poles. The
total torques of the spherical motor are calculated by multiplying the thrust-force contributions of each
pole with the corresponding distance between the pole and the pivot axle. Therefore, the thrust-force
characteristics, which were calculated with the FE-models are approximated with trend functions
depending on the pole position and the current. Fig. 4 shows the total torque around the normal axis Tϕ
depending on the rotation about the normal axis ϕ and the declination of the normal axis ϑ at a current
of 3 A. Using this calculation method, various stator-pole arrangements were investigated concerning
the achievable torques.

80 Nm
70 Nm
60 Nm
50 Nm
40 Nm

Figure 4: Total torque Tϕ around the normal axis

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Calculation of the cogging torques
It has to be taken into account, that the cogging torques depend on the complete geometry of stator and
rotor. For the calculation of these torques an overall Finite-Element model of the spherical motor has
been built. This model consists of round about 900000 elements (Fig. 5). The cogging torques have to
be calculated at various different rotor positions. For this reason the meshed stator and rotor model are
twisted against each other, glued in the air gap and then the air gap is meshed.

Flux density

Figure 5: Finite-Element model and flux distribution

Transverse flux machine

The transverse flux machine is a direct drive with a high torque-to-volume ratio. Different topologies
of transverse flux machines have been developed at the Department of Ele ctrical Machines in Aachen
[6,7,8]. The calculation of additional eddy-current losses is very important for the prediction of the
machine performance. Therefore, a 3-dimensional FEM solver with a time stepping algorithm is used,
which is also capable of simulating the rotor movement.

Design of the machine

The geometry of the magnetic circuit and the complete machine layout are presented in Fig. 6. For a
better view the left figure shows only one pole of one phase in a linear arrangement.





flux concentrator

permanent magnets
Figure 6: Geometry of the magnetic circuit and complete machine layout

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The armature winding in the inner stator is surrounded by U-shaped soft-iron parts, which are arranged
circumferentially in a distance of a double pole pitch. The limbs of the U-yoke are shifted by an
electrical angle of 180° against each other. The U-yoke lamination is stacked in circumferential
direction. The geometrical shift is achieved by bending the complete stack before bonding. In order to
get the utilisation of the magnetic circuit as high as possible, the cross sections of the U-cores get
bigger at the air gap by using pole shoes. In the external rotor a flux concentrating design with soft-
magnetic pieces between the rare earth permanent magnets, which are magnetised with alternating
polarity in circumferential direction, is applied. The magnetic flux is of three dimensional nature in the
flux concentrating parts in the rotor. Therefore they have to be made of a soft magnetic composite
(powder iron) material instead of laminated iron.

The complete machine consists of three phases. In contrast to conventional machines there is no
common rotating field in the three-phase design of a transverse flux machine, but only three
independent alternating fields which are electrically shifted by 120°. The necessary mechanical shift is
done in the rotor by shifting the complete rotor rings, consisting of the magnets and the powder-iron
parts, from one phase to the next. Accordingly, the stator cores in all phases can be arranged in line.

The complete arrangement of the active parts in the rotor is framed by a ring made of a non-magnetic
material to prevent high stray fluxes from one soft-magnetic piece to the other. The electric
conductivity of this material is high for using the ring as a damper to displace magnetic flux from the
carrier adjacent to the ring. The carrier itself is also made of a non-magnetic material with a good
electric conductivity.

Finite-Element model and mesh

The Finite-Element model of the transverse flux machine only consists of a cutting of one phase
including a double pole pitch in circumferential direction, which is the smallest symmetry unit of the
machine. Comparative investigations between linear and rotationally symmetric Finite-Element
models have shown, that the consideration of a geometrically linear model is sufficient, because of the
small pole pitch. The mesh for the non-air parts of the Finite-Element model is shown in Fig. 7. The
total mesh including the air regions consists of 250000 tetrahedral elements and 50000 nodes.


non-magnetic ring

soft-magnetic pieces
and permanent magnets

Figure 7: FE mesh of the transverse flux machine

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The mesh for the eddy current regions in the rotor, which consist of the permanent magnets and the
carrier parts, has to be influenced by the penetration depth δ of the electromagnetic field:
δ= . (1)
π⋅ f ⋅ σ⋅µ
Special attention has to be paid to the periodic boundary conditions of the Finite-Element model in
circumferential direction. The mesh in both edge layers has to be exactly the same to apply a periodic
boundary condition. Therefore, one of the edge layers is meshed with triangle elements and then
copied on the other edge layer. After this operation the three-dimensional meshing of the model with
tetrahedral elements is done. The chosen approach for the mesh generation is therefore a combination
of two- and three-dimensional meshing.

Rotor movement
Another important point for the meshing of the model is the simulation of the rotor movement. The
applied technique permits the use of only one mesh for the complete transient calculation. This is
realised with a layer in the airgap between stator and rotor, which has exactly the same mesh in
equidistant spacing ∆x in the direction of movement. This equidistant spacing is depending on the
desired geometric step width from one time step to the next. The simplest strategy of producing this
meshed layer is to mesh only a part of the layer with the width ∆x and then copy this mesh in the di-
rection of movement. After every rotor position change of n ⋅ ∆x the positions of the nodes in the layer
are congruent again. Therefore, stator and rotor mesh are completely independent and they are shifted
against each other but it is not necessary to mesh the airgap region again. Only the constraints have to
be defined anew after each transient step.

Calculation of the eddy currents

The calculation of the eddy currents is based on a 3D Finite-Element method with a time stepping
procedure. The potential formulation is using two vector potentials for the magnetic and electric field,
the magnetic vector potential A in the regions without eddy currents and both the magnetic and
electric vector potential T in the eddy-current regions. With this approach the investigation of the
influence of the sinusoidal stator current and partic ularly the movement of the permanent magnet
excited rotor on the eddy current losses is possible. Fig. 8 exemplifies the eddy current distribution in
the permanent magnets and in the rotor ring with moved rotor.

Figure 8: Eddy-current density distribution in the permanent magnets and in the rotor ring

The extracted perceptions of the different loss mechanisms are used for the choice of suitable
materials, especially for the passive rotor parts, e.g. carriers and fixations. The convergence of the
transient calculation is strongly influenced by the resistivity of the eddy-current regions with the
presented approach. A steady state solution is reached after only a few periods because the transverse
flux machine is not a rotating-field but an alternating-field machine with a simple operation principle.

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The Claw-pole alternator
Synchronous claw-pole alternators are used in automobiles for generation of electricity. They are
fairly efficient over a wide speed range and are inexpensive when built in high numbered series
production. Another optimisation aspect is the audible noise of these alternators. Especially in the low
speed range (n = 2000-4000 RPM), when thermo-dynamical noise of the engine and the alternator fan
noise are still relatively low, the noise caused by the magnetic excited forces of the generator has to be

Calculation procedure
The calculation procedure has been presented in [9] for star-connected alternators and in [10] for delta-
connection. This procedure can be split into three blocks: the magneto-static computations, leading to
the magnetic forces on the stator metal, the structural-dynamic calculation of the relevant harmonics
and the acoustic simulation of the generator.

1.) Magneto-static calculation

First, Finite-Element computations of the magneto-static field in the claw pole alternator at various
speeds are executed on models of one pole pitch as shown in Fig. 9. Since the modelling of the
winding head for machines with the number of stator slots per phase winding q > 1 is very
complicated, the model is simplified in these regions. All other magnetically relevant regions are
modelled precisely. In each of the five models the rotor is rotated by an angle of:
∆α = 2° ⋅ m with m ∈ {0;1; 2;3; 4} , (2)
leading to five time steps.

Figure 9: Magnetic model, one pole pitch, simplified winding head

An edge-based static FE solver as described in [11] is utilised for each time step. The solver is driven
by a constant direct current in the rotor-excitation coil. A three-phase current is impressed into the
stator coils. The amplitude of the current and the load angle are functions of the generator speed. In
order to take saturation effects into account, they are determined in a model with q = 1 and compared
to measurements [12]. The magnetic forces are calculated in each static FE calculation based on the
flux-density distributions and the material data. Interpolation of different stator tooth positions leads to
30 time steps or 14 spectral modes for two stator-tooth pitches.

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2.) Structural-dynamic computation
The forces in spectral mode are transformed into a mechanical FE-model [13]. Since all mechanically
relevant components have to be modelled, there is no symmetry and a full 360° model as shown in
Fig. 10 has to be generated. This model is used to determine the deformation and oscillation of the
relevant harmonics, based on the material data. Here, transversely isotropic materials are used to
represent the stator metal sheets. In order to reduce modelling and calculation expenses and since the
rotor contributes barely to the acoustic outcome, the rotor region is modelled as a solid cylinder with
the same mass as the claw-formed real-life motor.

Figure 10: Mechanical full 360° model

A node-based structural-dynamic FE solver is utilised for each relevant harmonic and alternator speed.
To increase the numerical accuracy, second order elements are used in the displacement solver. Fig. 11
shows the deformation of the claw pole alternator. In the case of the claw-pole alternator the relevant
harmonics are acoustic orders 5 and 6 or mechanical orders 30 and 36. Since these two orders lead
almost to the complete noise output, all other orders are neglected.

Figure 11: Scaled deformation of the claw-pole alternator

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3.) Acoustic simulation
In the last step, the sound power level is calculated using an acoustic boundary-element model (BE).
This model differs geometrically from the mechanical model. Here, only the surface boundaries are
meshed and the stator and rotor region is merged in order to reduce numerical errors in the acoustic
BE method caused by small air gaps. Again a 360° model is used. Onto this model, the surface
velocities of the structural-dynamic calculations are interpolated. These velocities are used to drive the
acoustic BE solver. On a half spherical boundary area the emitted sound distribution and the total
sound power are evaluated. A sound-reflection plane represents the lower half space. Repeating this
calculation chain for various generator speeds and the relevant harmonics leads to the sound-power
characteristic of the machine.

Simulation of a PMSM with SIMPLORER-FLUX2D-Coupling

The coupling of a simulation tool like SIMPLORER with FEM calculations allows to simulate the
behaviour of more complex geometries like that of a conventional electric machine. The simulation
parameters depending on the geometry of the machine can be adjusted. As an example for a coupling
of SIMPLORER and FLUX2D a start-up of an electronic commutated permanent-magnet synchronous
machine (PMSM) has been simulated at the Institute for Electrical Machines [14]. The complete
controlling and the differential-equation system of the machine are implemented in SIMPLORER. The
machine is operated in field-orientated coordinates. The three-phase currents and voltages of the
machine are transformed into a two-phase system with quadrature (index q) and direct axis (index d).

In a first step the torque of the machine is calculated analytically in SIMPLORER. In comparison to
this the estimation of the torque is replaced by a 2D Finite-Element calculation with FLUX2D. In
order to bring the two simulations into agreement, the inductance of the machine has to be
recalculated. For this the phasor diagram is approximatively calculated. Finally the simulations are

In the case of a PMSM as an injection-pump drive a minimal start-up-time of 100 ms from 0 to 3500
rpm is required. The machine shown as a FE-model in Fig. 12 has an outer diameter of the stator of
120 mm. The rotor diameter is 34.5 mm. The length of the machine is 60 mm. As permanent magnet
material ferrit is used with a remanence of 0.35 T. The stator has a copper winding with 24 slots and
the rotor is symmetric so that there is no difference in the inductances of direct and quadrature axis.
The pole pair number is p = 2. The inertia of the rotor is calculated to J=1.1032 mWs3 . The stack
factor is kCu = 0.35.

Figure 12: FEM model of the PMSM, one pole pitch

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Coupling of SIMPLORER and FLUX2D
The idea behind the coupling of the SIMPLORER-simulation with the FEM program FLUX2D is to
use the exactness of the FEM calculation to determine the torque of the machine at every time step
considering the geometry of the machine. A model of the machine is built with FLUX2D. This is
coupled by an electrical circuit in FLUX2D to the coupling module in SIMPLORER. The coupling
module is added to the simulation sheet of the machine as shown in Fig. 13. The SIMPLORER
simulation parameters must be adjusted. The time step is now set constant and the memory size higher.
The simulation is started and every time step a FEM calculation in FLUX2D is conducted using the
speed, the time step, and the currents estimated in SIMPLORER.

Figure 13: SIMPLORER simulation sheet with coupling module to FLUX2D

Although the currents are about the same as without coupling the torque in the simulation is not any
longer smooth but undulating as shown in Fig. 14, an effect depending on the stator slots. The
reluctivity of the motor depends on the position of the rotor. If the reluctivity is lower the torque is
higher than at the point of higher reluctivity.

Figure 14: Calculated torque of the coupled simulation

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Using the coupling of SIMPLORER and FLUX2D or similar products it is possible to calculate
dynamic processes of complex geometries. This is of advantage if it is not easily possible to derive an
analytical equation for the torque of an electrical machine. If the coupling is used, the calculation time
increases dramatically. But it is a possibility to verify the results of a simulation done without FEM
and adjust it. In a next step the FEM calculation with FLUX2D is coupled to the simulation with
SIMPLORER in order to substitute the equation for the estimation of the torque by the output of
FLUX2D. The results are compared and because of the great difference the inductance of the machine
is recalculated using the coupling. The SIMPLORER parameters are adjusted and the simulations with
and without the coupling are repeated. The simulations then show almost exactly the same behaviour.
The coupling is not any longer necessary and the calculation time is reduced again when using the
simulation without coupling.

This paper presents four different examples of the way Finite-Element models are being used at the
Institute for Electrical Machines at Aachen Institute of Technology. The bandwidth of the applications
covers static torque and force calculations for new types of electrical machines, transient calculation of
eddy current losses, a procedure to determine the mechanical and acoustic behaviour of electrical
machines and coupled simulations to calculate the dynamic behaviour of electrical machines.
Depending on the requirements the Finite-Element models are either 2D or 3D and more or less
extensive. Regarding the ongoing improvements of the performance of personal computers and
workstations these examples are showing, that the complexity of the applications of Finite-Element
models will increase further on.

[1] Blissenbach, R.; Henneberger, G.: Numerical calculation of 3D eddy current fields in transverse flux
machines with time stepping procedures, COMPEL, Vol. 20, Number 1, 2001, pp. 152-166
[2] Kaehler, C.; Henneberger, G.: Calculation of the mechanical and acoustic behaviour of a clow pole
alternator in double and single star connection, 4th International symposium on advanced
electromechanical motion systems (Electromotion proceedings), Vol. 2, 2001, pp.553-558
[3] Weck, M.; Reinartz, T.; Henneberger, G.; De Doncker, R.: Design of a spherical motor with three
degrees of freedom, Annals of the CIRP, Vol. 49, 2000, pp. 289-294
[4] Busch, T.; Henneberger, G.: Designing methods for multi-coordinate drives, Linear Drives for Industry
Applications (LDIA Proceedings), 2001, pp.74-77
[5] Albertz, D.: Entwicklung numerischer Verfahren zur Berechnung und Auslegung elektromagnetischer
Schienenbremssysteme, PhD thesis, Institute for Electrical Machines, ISBN 3-8265-6301-8, 1999
[6] Bork, M.; Henneberger, G.: New transverse flux concept for an electric vehicle drive system, Proc. Int.
Conference on Electrical Machines (ICEM), Vol.2, 1996, pp. 308-313
[7] Blissenbach, R.; Henneberger, G.: Transverse flux motor with high specific torque and efficiency for a
direct drive of an electric vehicle, Proc. ISATA, Clean Power Sources and Environ mental Implications
in the Automotive Industry, 1999, pp. 429-436
[8] Blissenbach, R.; Henneberger, G.: New design of a transverse flux machine for a wheel hub motor in a
tram, Proc. PCIM, Intelligent Motion, 1999, pp. 189-194
[9] Ramesohl, I.; Bauer, T.; Henneberger, G.: Calculation procedure of the sound fields caused by
magnetic excitations of the claw-pole alternator, 1st International Seminar on Vibrations and Acoustic
Noise of Electric Machinery (VANEM Proceedings), 1998, pp. 75-79
[10] Kaehler, C.; Henneberger, G.: Calculation of the differences in the acoustical behaviour of a claw-pole
alternatorwhen connected in delta and star, 2nd 1st International Seminar on Vibrations and Acoustic
Noise of Electric Machinery (VANEM Proceedings), 2000, pp. 127-131
r r r
[11] Albertz, D.; Henneberger, G.: On the use of the new edge based A, A − T formulation for the calculation
of time-harmonic, stationary and transient current field problems, IEEE Transactions on Magnetics,
Vol. 36, 2000, pp. 818-822
[12] Küppers, S.: Numerische Verfahren zur Beredchnung und Auslegung von Drehstrom-
Klauenpolgeneratoren, Dissertation, Institut für Elektrische Maschinen, RWTH Aachen, 1996
[13] Ramesohl, I.; Kaehler, C.; Henneberger, G.: Influencing factors on acoustical simulations including
manufacturing tolerances and numerical strategies, 9th International Conference on Electrical Machines
and Drives IEE EMD(Canterbury, England), 1999, pp. 142-146

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[14] Schlensok, C.; Henneberger, G.: Simulation of a PMSM with SIMPLORER-FLUX2D-Coupling, Proc.
Int. Conference on Electrical Machines (ICEM), in press, 2002

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