electric car Image: Michael Movchin

Thermoset Compounds Critical Contributors in Electric Powertrain Systems

Sumitomo Bakelite aims to promote further application of thermoset compounds in powertrain systems, which are the central components to electric vehicles.

Sumitomo Bakelite aims to promote further application of thermoset compounds in powertrain systems, which are the central components to electric vehicles. To achieve this, the company established the Next e-Axle Market Promotion Project Team in January 2020 with the purpose to design, manufacture, and generate data verifying the benefits of utilizing thermoset compounds.

These benefits enable smaller, more lightweight/low-vibration, more low-noise and better heat dissipation designs. Sumitomo Bakelite is supporting the rapidly-growing market for electric vehicles as an opportunity to expand the thermoset compounds industry. While applying its molding compound technology developed through semiconductor encapsulation compound applications and phenolic molding compounds, the company is moving its efforts forward to appeal to major automotive-related companies both in Japan and overseas.

Sumitomo Bakelite has a long history of producing and selling molding compounds and thermoset compounds, including phenolic resin and other kinds of thermoset plastics, as materials for automotive applications. In recent years, with high growth expected in the electric vehicle market, the company has already begun joint development of materials for fixing motor magnets, for example, with a number of clients and continues to advance these efforts. On the other hand, due to structural changes in the automotive industry in recent years, there has been a demand from clients for technology and information that is more advanced than ever before.

In particular, there has been an increase in demand for electric powertrains (electric axles) integrated with motors, inverters, and gearboxes. With these demands, the company faces the essential challenges of producing smaller/more lightweight and with lower vibration/more low-noise, as well as how to deal with the heat released at high output.

Now, in order to respond to client demand, the company has decided to take the compound design and formulation technology that it has refined up until this point and apply it to electric axle design, manufacturing, and data acquisition. A 150-kilowatt output motor is scheduled to be completed in 2021. Upon its completion, Sumitomo Bakelite will run the motor to acquire data and present detailed information on how to improve its performance in areas such heat dissipation. The company’s plan is to work to make it possible to also share with its clients technology that can contribute to their product development. It is in this manner that Sumitomo Bakelite Co., Ltd. hopes to make way for even greater expansion in industries that work with our electric axles.

Sumitomo Bakelite has also established a new Mobility Materials Sales Department and a global production system, and aims to achieve sales of ¥12 billion ($112 million) in electric axle-related business in the 2025 fiscal year.

In inverter applications, Sumitomo Bakelite’s molding compounds are used for inverter covers, encapsulation of power modules, and heat dissipation sheets, among other applications. For motors, the materials are used for fixing rotor magnets, stator materials, and direct cooling systems. Molding compounds for motor gear housings are a more recent development.

Image courtesy Michael Movchin

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