What is a brushless DC motor?

Brushless DC motor

Most electrical appliances have an electric motor that rotates to displace an object from its initial position. Various motors are available in the market such as servomotors, induction motors, stepper motors, DC motors (both brushless and brushed), etc. The choice of a motor depends on the requirements of an application. Most new designs favor brushless DC motors, also referred to as BLDC motors.

The working principle of brushless DC motors is similar to that of brushed DC motors, but their construction is very close to that of AC motors. Like all motors, a brushless DC motor too has a stator and a rotor as its major parts.

The stator of a brushless DC motor, similar to the stator of an induction AC motor, is made up of laminated CRGO steel sheets stacked up to carry the windings. The stator windings follow one of two patterns, star and delta. Motors with stators wound in star pattern produce high torque at low RPM compared to motors whose stators are wound in a delta pattern. For motors required to run at very high speeds, the stator core has no slots, as this lowers the winding inductance.

Lack of slots in the lamination stack means the stator has no teeth, which reduces the cogging torque. Teeth in the stator align with the permanent magnets in the rotor, holding the rotor in a stationary position. When starting to move, additional torque, known as the cogging torque is required to make the rotor break free. However, slotless cores are more expensive as a larger air gap is necessary and that means more winding to compensate.

A typical brushless DC motor has its rotor made out of permanent magnets. The number of poles in the rotor depends on the requirements of the application, as more number of poles gives better torque. However, this reduces the maximum possible speed. Torque produced in a brushless DC motor also depends on the flux density of the material of the permanent magnet; higher flux density material produces higher torque.

Brushless DC motors are popular due to several advantages they offer over other types of motors. Compared to brushed type of motors, a BLDC motor produces higher torque because it has no brushes where power may be lost. Lack of brushes also means higher operating life and lower maintenance. Compared to AC motors, the rotor construction is simpler as it has no windings.

The cost to performance ratio of brushless DC motors is the lowest among all the types of motors available. One reason for this is the stator of a BLDC motor is on its outer periphery, which makes it dissipate a larger amount of heat. Additionally, commutation of brushless DC motors is simpler through electronic switches. That makes it easier to control the speed of BLDC motors.

Brush vs brushless DC motors

Whether you are looking at single-speed, adjustable speed, position control or low-noise applications, brushless DC motors are the clear winners over all other types. As they are easier to control, maintaining speed of brushless DC motors is simpler with variations in load. A brushless DC motor generates very low amounts of EMI and audible noise.