The Application fields of BLDC Motors: Automobiles, Drones, Industrial Robots… 

As global industrial automation, intelligence, and people’s living standards continue to improve, motors will be used in a wider range of fields such as automobiles, household appliances, electronic audiovisual equipment, information processing equipment, and industrial automation.

Compared to the history of motors of more than 200 years, BLDC motors are relatively young, with a history of only more than 50 years of development. However, with the development of semiconductor technology and the popularity of MCU and driver components, the overall cost of BLDC motors has been greatly reduced in recent years. Therefore, BLDC motors have developed rapidly in recent years, and their overall growth rate is higher than that of motors.

Figure 1: Forecast of the BLDC motor market size

It is expected that the compound annual growth rate of BLDC motors in the next few years will be around 6.5%. According to statistics, the market size of BLDC in 2019 was about 16.3 billion US dollars, and it is expected to reach about 22.44 billion US dollars by 2024.

The market size is there, but what are the specific applications?

Automotive Application Market

With the rise of new energy vehicles, the penetration of intelligent driving, and the application pilot of the connected car network, the trend of automotive electrification is becoming more and more evident.

In future cars, in addition to the drive motor, electric power steering systems, electronic suspension systems, vehicle stability control systems, automotive cruise control systems, ABS, and body systems (windows, door locks, seats, rearview mirrors, wipers, sunroofs, etc.) will all use motors extensively.

Generally speaking, economical fuel vehicles will be equipped with about 10 motors, ordinary cars will be equipped with 20 to 30 motors, while luxury cars will be equipped with 60 to 70 or even hundreds of motors, and new energy vehicles generally require 130 to 200 motors.

Figure 2: Number of motors used in cars

As people pay more and more attention to the performance of cars, especially the requirements for comfort, safety, fuel economy, and environmental protection, the electronic control devices and power equipment on cars have correspondingly increased. The use of various electric devices has led to an increase in the number of motors equipped in cars.

New energy vehicles are the development trend in recent years, and global policies are now promoting the development of new energy vehicles. Developed countries actively lay out the new energy vehicle market and promote the transition from traditional fuel vehicles to electric vehicles through various subsidy policies and laws.

5G

There are also many places where motors are needed in 5G base stations, first of all, the base station antenna. At present, the control motor products with gearbox components supporting the application of 5G base station antennas include two schemes: stepper motor and brushless motor. Each electrically adjustable antenna requires a control motor with a gearbox.

Generally, ordinary communication base stations need to be equipped with about 3 antennas, 4G base stations need to be equipped with 4 to 6 antennas, and the number of 5G base stations and the number of antennas will further increase.

In addition to the base station antenna, the cooling system in the base station also needs to use motor products. For example, cooling fans, air conditioning compressors, and so on.

Drones

Drones were very popular a few years ago, but not all drones use brushless motors. Now, many drones are switching to brushless motors to get longer and lighter bodies and longer flight times.

The motor is a very important component in drones, responsible for driving the propeller to rotate and generate lift, allowing the drone to fly in the air. Generally, the motors used in drones are brushless DC motors, which have the following characteristics:

Efficient: Brushless motors do not require contacts and carbon brushes when working, so the friction and heat loss are smaller than traditional brushed motors, resulting in higher efficiency.

Lightweight: Brushless motors have a simple structure, small size, and light weight, making them very suitable for small drones.

High speed: Brushless motors can have very high speeds, usually reaching tens of thousands of revolutions per minute, which can generate enough lift to allow the drone to fly stably in the air.

Easy to control: Brushless motors can control the speed by changing the voltage and current, making it possible to achieve precise control.

According to the Droneii report, in 2018, the global drone market size was $14.1 billion, and it is expected to reach $43.1 billion by 2024, with the fastest growth rate in Asia and North America. The compound annual growth rate is 20.5%.

Electric Bicycles/E-Bikes

Electric bicycles provide both the original cycling experience and intelligent power assistance. They are a means of transportation between bicycles and traditional electric vehicles. E-bikes mainly provide corresponding power assistance based on the cycling signal through sensors, reducing the rider’s effort and making the ride more comfortable. Compared with bicycles, e-bikes have added motors, batteries, sensors, controllers, instruments, etc., making the riding experience more enriched. Compared with traditional electric vehicles, e-bikes do not control the speed by twisting the hand, but capture the cycling signal through sensors, then understand the rider’s cycling intention, and provide corresponding power assistance, making the ride more intelligent.

The motor is the core component of the electrical system of an e-bike. As the size, weight, operating efficiency, and appearance reliability of the motor directly determine the performance of the e-bike, motor companies generally customize the motor according to the needs of the e-bike. The motor accounts for 10% to 30% of the cost of an e-bike.

There is a strong demand for e-bikes in Europe. According to the data of the European Bicycle Industry Association, from 2006 to 2018, the sales of e-bikes in the European market increased from 98,000 to 2.5 million. The compound annual growth rate reached 31%.

The Japanese market is also growing steadily. Japan is the country that developed, produced, and sold e-bikes earliest. In the 1980s, Japan successfully developed the first generation of e-bikes. However, due to the hilly terrain, rough roads, and serious aging population in Japan, e-bikes became a necessary choice.

Industrial Robots

The space for industrial robots is quite extensive. Although China is the world’s largest market for industrial robot applications, globally renowned manufacturers of industrial robots are mainly concentrated in developed countries represented by the United States, Japan, and Germany, such as Sweden’s ABB, Japan’s Fanuc and Yaskawa Electric, as well as the four major families represented by KUKA of Germany.

Figure 3: Sales of Industrial Robots

According to data from the International Federation of Robotics, the global sales of industrial robots in 2018 were 422,000 units, of which the sales in China were 154,000 units, accounting for 36.5%. In addition, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics, the production of industrial robots in China is also gradually increasing from around 33,000 units in 2015 to 187,000 units in 2018, with a rapid growth rate.

Compressors

As the speed of a refrigerator compressor determines the internal temperature of the refrigerator, the variable frequency compressor can adjust its speed according to the temperature, allowing the refrigerator to make adjustments based on the current temperature conditions and maintain a more constant temperature. This results in better preservation of food. Variable frequency compressors for refrigerators mostly use brushless DC motors, which operate more efficiently, with lower noise and longer lifetimes.

In addition, for air conditioning compressors, variable frequency air conditioning has already become mainstream. The production of air conditioners in China is also quite large. According to statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics of China, in 2018, the production of electric motors for air conditioners was about 360 million, and the production of BLDC motors for air conditioners was around 96 million. Moreover, the production of BLDC motors for air conditioners is basically increasing every year.

Electric Tools

Electric tools are one of the most widely used hardware and electrical products. With their lightweight structure, convenient portability, high production efficiency, low energy consumption, and other characteristics, they are widely used in drilling, cutting, grinding, and other processing stages in the fields of construction, decoration, woodworking, metalworking, and other manufacturing industries.

With the continuous development of technology and the gradual acceptance of DIY concepts, the application scope of electric tools is also constantly expanding. Many areas of traditional manual tools are being replaced by electric tools, and electric tools are also expanding from industrial applications to household life. The demand for electric tools is increasing year by year.

The brushless transformation of electric tools actually started a long time ago. In 2010, some brands launched electric tools with brushless motors. With the maturity of lithium battery technology and the increasingly affordable prices, the volume of handheld tools is increasing year by year, and they can now compete with plug-in tools.

According to statistics, electric wrenches have basically achieved brushless transformation, while electric drills, high-pressure and gardening tools have not yet fully achieved brushless transformation, but are also in the process of conversion.

This is mainly due to the energy-saving and high efficiency of brushless motors, which allows handheld electric tools to operate for a longer period of time. Now, many international and domestic manufacturers are investing a lot of resources in product development, such as Bosch, Dewalt, Milwaukee, Ryobi, Makita, etc.

Personal Health Care

In terms of personal health care, there are two representative products, one is Dyson’s popular hair dryer, and the other is a fascia gun.

Since Dyson launched its hair dryer product using a high-speed digital motor, it has set the benchmark for the entire hair dryer market.

Currently, there are three main directions for hair dryer solutions: one is the solution using ultra-high-speed brushless motors, which is represented by Dyson. The speed is generally around 100,000 revolutions per minute, and the highest can reach 160,000 revolutions per minute; the second is the U-motor replacement solution, which is similar to the U-motor in terms of speed, and its advantage is its light weight and high wind pressure; the third is the external rotor high-pressure solution, which mainly imitates Nedic’s motor.

The shipment volume of fascia guns has surged in recent years. It is said that now fitness coaches and sports enthusiasts are equipped with fascia guns. The fascia gun uses the mechanical principle of vibration to transmit the vibration to the deep fascia muscles, achieving the effect of relaxing the fascia and reducing muscle tension. Some people see the fascia gun as a relaxation artifact after exercise.

Of course, in addition to these two products, there are also trends towards brushless motors in other products, such as men’s shavers and women’s beauty devices.

Conclusion

Overall, BLDC motors are still in the early stages of development, and their applications are diverse. In addition to what I have mentioned here, there are many other applications, such as service robots, AGVs, sweeping robots, wall-breaking machines, stir-fry machines, dishwashers, etc. In fact, there are many places in our daily lives where motors are used, and there are many applications waiting for us to explore in the future.

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