Interdisciplinary approach to market-ready inductors

Inductors and transformers for the medium- and high-frequency range represent a dynamic field for development. New materials and technologies have enabled innovative steps on a continuous basis over recent years. With a strong team of experts, BLOCK now plans to get involved in its customers’ development process at an earlier stage and thus sustainably reduce the time to market when developing new components.

Miniaturization, energy efficiency, high switching frequencies, and increased power density are central in the development of medium-frequency transformers  of between 2 kHz and 40 kHz, and high-frequency chokes of between 100 kHz and 400 kHz. These objectives also pose particular challenges in relation to heat management and materials technology. By setting up the BLOCK Co-Creation Center – known as BLOCK C3 – for medium- and high-frequency inductors, the company plans to speed up the development process significantly for individual electrical components such as switch-mode power supplies, new battery charging systems, or reactors, transformers and filters in order to guarantee network stability. An interdisciplinary team of experts at the BLOCK C3 Development Center with close geographical and organizational links will be working closely with customers in future in order to reduce the time required from the initial technical specification to a functioning prototype.

Progress in the medium- and high-frequency range

The requirements placed on reactors, transformers for modern converter systems, and filters for network stabilization due to high-frequency switching operations have risen continuously in recent years. Highly compact, lightweight and at the same time high-performance products are required today. BLOCK has met the requirements for this e.g. through innovative winding technologies  and new approaches to design.

The use of highly permeable ferrite cores or nanocrystalline cut and uncut cores in medium-frequency transformers or current-compensated chokes also enables alternative cooling and winding concepts. The developments are causing a significant reduction in the size of the inductive components so that compact and robust inductors will be possible going forward.

BLOCK is also setting the benchmark  when it comes to optimizing the power of inductive winding goods through Future Winding technology. Among other things, this low-capacity high edge winding technology enables better heat dissipation, high current density, precise adjustments to the core geometry, and controllable field distribution. This optimization results in reduced costs, lower installed sizes, and less weight.

Research and production technology combined – best practice for converters and power electronics

These technical successes are the result of intensive development activities. BLOCK has for instance been engaged in its own basic research into winding goods for around ten years. This has already led to productive collaboration with universities and research institutes. The plan is to combine these skills with production in the company for a faster transfer of knowledge. The team of experts has direct access to all conceivable preliminary materials such as winding wires, strands, high-frequency strands as well as sheet metal and core materials in order to produce individual winding goods. Optimum vertical integration is achieved using winding machines, electronics production, injection molding production with in-house mold development, sheet metal processing by punching, bending, folding, and cutting, 3D printing for the construction of complex plastic structures, and a CNC milling machine for rapid production of workpieces from solid materials. The high degree of customization for customer orders allows work to take place to some extent based on a one-piece flow whereby an employee takes care of the inductor through to completion.

To prototype testing in record time

The BLOCK C3 Development Center is an ideas workshop that accompanies all partners and customers as well as universities and research institutes at the early stages of the innovation cycle and supports them in developing new concepts. The aim here is to expand on knowledge and innovation with respect to medium-frequency transformers and high-frequency inductors and to enable a holistic approach towards carrying out research and development tasks. Christian Kliesch, Head of the Medium- and High-Frequency Inductor division at BLOCK, sees huge synergy effects in the close geographical and professional links between the agile team: “We want to achieve the shortest routes possible between the electrical design, mechanical design, prototyping and production stages in order to provide customers with sophisticated products for further testing in their projects as quickly as possible. We can deliver prototypes for tests within a short period of time with optimum iteration loops and thus support new energy supply concepts from the beginning through to series production readiness thanks to our vertical range of manufacture”, says Kliesch.

The challenge: system designs

Prototypes from the BLOCK C3 are expressly designed for customers who need the right high-frequency chokes, filters, or transformers for their project at early and experimental phases of development. The expert supplier in Verden in Germany is perfectly placed for this, since more than 80% of our products produced in the standard product portfolio for use in mechanical and plant engineering, railway and drive technology or renewable energies are customer-specific.

If a developer has developed a concept for their new project – e.g. for voltage supply – then they can benefit directly from the C3 team’s experience when it comes to implementation. Miniaturization and energy efficiency options should also be considered at an early stage, including heat dissipation, material costs, interference factors, and the overall structure for subsequent assembly in the product. Not all of the parameters are fixed yet at this early stage and can be easily changed accordingly.

Sensible staggered iteration phases

Plausibility checks then take place to examine whether the required tolerances, dimensions or power losses can be met with the existing concept. Kliesch and his team gain further insights, are able to make initial cost calculations, and can give the customer recommendations for adjustments, such as to the circuit, the installation space or the heat management system, through flexibility and speed in producing the prototypes as well as by simulating power losses and the expected heating for the product.

The actual implementation takes place at the next stage. The C3 team produces detailed 3D drawings and digital data for the customer’s projects. Initial samples are produced using this digital twin which the customer can test in his application and verify thoroughly using measurements. Based on this the product can be adjusted once again if required and optimized for real usage conditions. This means that the transition to BLOCK series production can take place without requiring any further steps.

Basic research for practice

The company is promoting cross-institutional, interdisciplinary transfer of knowledge in electrotechnical research and development with the BLOCK C3 Co-Creation Center. The findings from in-house basic research can be transferred directly into practical concepts at the threshold of series production, while the developers in industrial companies and research institutions can achieve better solutions for their projects more quickly with the experience and support of the BLOCK team. BLOCK C3 aims to generate a win-win situation for all parties involved in the project.