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An active magnetic bearing system

H. Habermann and G. Liard

This paper describes the principles of design and operation of the Acti dyne
active magnetic bearing system. The principal advantages of this system are
due to the absence of mechanical contact, obviating the need for lubrication,
and to the high accuracy of shaft position
The suspension of a rotating shaft in
a magnetic field without mechanical
contact and without lubrication is an
old idea. In 1842, Earnshaw introduced
the idea of passive magnetic suspension,
but the first description of a totally
active magnetic suspension system was
only issued in 1957 as a French
patent assigned to the Hispano-Suiza
Company. It has only been during the
last ten years that electronic control
has been sufficiently developed to
make possible the design of an active
magnetic bearing system for industrial
application, particularly for large machi-
nery with shafts weighing several tons.
Principle of the system
In the Actidyne active magnetic bear-
ing system, the body to be supported,
the rotor, is held in the desired position
relative to the stationary body, the
stator, by electromagnetic control.
The highly accurate inductive sensors
monitor the position continuously.
After amplification, currents are in-
duced in the windings of the electro-
magnets of the starer and the magnetic
forces produced serve to restore the
rotor to the desired position so that
stable centring is achieved. The inter-
action between the bearing and the
controls is shown in Fig 1.
Fig 2 shows the principle of operation
of a radial bearing which includes
four electromagnets and four sensors.
The rotor is made only of ferro-
magnetic laminations without windings
and is supported by magnetic forces.
The four electromagnets surrounding
the rotor keep it in the desired
Construction and characteristics
Actidyne bearings are designed to
support either radial or axial loads.
Radial bearings have a cylindrical air-
gap, while axial bearings have a fiat
air-gap. Bearings for bot h axial and
Soci~t~ de M#canique Magngtique, S2M,
Chemin d#partemental 181, BP 431, 2 7204,
Vernon Cedex, France
s i q n a l ~ ~ (~
E l e c t r o n i c s y s t e m
J ~
S e n s o r skJnot
B e o r in q
J ~
Sensor J
Fig I Operation of the control loop
S t a t o r ~ l e c t m m a ( j n e t
Fig 2 A radial bearing which includes
four electromagnets and four sensors
Fig 3 (Right) An example of active
magnetic bearing construction
radial loads are also made with a
conical air-gap.
An example of the bearing design is
shown in Fig 3. The sensors have a rotor
and starer which are manufactured
similarly to those of the magnetic
bearing. In its simplest form, the axial
bearing takes the shape of two discs
mounted adjacent to each other.
The radial clearance is twice the air-
S t a r e r
0301-679X/ 80/ 020085-05 $02.00 1980 IPC Business Press TRIBOLOGY internationat April 1980 85
Habermann and Li ard - An active magneti c bearing system
gap between the r ot or and the stator
and depends on the bearing diameter
which may range from 0.6 to 2.5 mm
or in some specific cases up t o 5 mm.
The load capacity is proportional t o
the specific magnetic induction of the
ferro-magnetic material. Using silicon-
iron laminations, the specific load
capacity rises t o F s = 0.40 N/mm 2 .
The load capacity of the bearing will
F =F s DB (1)
where D = bearing diameter measured
at the air-gap,
i n i n
B = active length of bearing,
For example: when D = 250 mm,
B = 250 mm and Fs = 0.40 N/ mm 2 ,
t hen
F = 25 000 N
Other materials are available t o increase
the specific load capacity, For
example, a particular iron-cobalt-
vanadium alloy allows a specific load
capacity of up t o 0.80 N/ mm 2 .
The maximurrbpermissible speed of an
active magnetic bearing is only limited
by the properties of the ferro-magnetic
material and is much higher than for
rolling element or hydrodynami c bear-
ings. Using standard material, a tan-
gential speed of 200 m/s at the air-gap
is currently possible for these active
magnetic bearings.
The stiffness of Actidyne is directly
related t o the gain of the control loop.
Theoretically it should be possible to
increase the gain wi t hout limitation.
However, the natural spring-mass system
frequency is limited and consequently
, g
o . o l ~o O J t o
Frequency , Hz
Fig 5 Section of the Turbovac 550M molecular pump
Fig 4 Snffness characteristic versus frequency
the gain, t oo. Natural frequencies for
machine-tool applications are about
500 Hz and for large machinery, such
as a turbo-compressor, onl y 100 Hz.
The relation between stiffness and
natural frequency is expressed by:
Ro = (2 n f o ) : G x 10 -6
/ ,
Thrust bearing
Sofety beoring
Upper beorin9
Drive motor
Lower bearing
--,.~fety bearing
where R o is the minimum stiffness
value close t o the natural frequency,
N/ pm, and G is the rot or weight, kg.
When low frequency perturbative forces
occur, the stiffness value increases
because of signal integration. For
instance, i f the frequency of the
perturbation iS/s = 0.01 [ o, the corres-
ponding stiffness is R i = 10 R0
Example 1
Machine t ool
f0 = 500Hz, Re = ' 100N/gin,
when fs = 5Hz, R i = 1000N/pro
Example 2
.to = 100Hz, Ro = 400N/#rn
when fs = 1Hz, R i = 4000N/#m
Fig 4 shows the stiffness characteristic
vs frequency. The minimum stiffness
value is obtained around the natural
frequency of the control loop, and
beyond that it is related to the shaft
inertia stiffness. The load capacity
and stiffness are absolutely indepen-
dent of the rotational speed of the
S p e c i f i c c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s
Principal advantages of this system
8 6 T R I B O L O G Y i nt er nat i onal Ap r i l 1 9 8 0
Fig 6 Turbomolecular pump Turbovac
5 6 0 M showing the stator arrange-
originate from two main areas:
Absence o f mechanical cont act and
no lubrication requirement:
no mechanical friction;
no wear of mechanical components;
possibility of high rotational speed;
no lubrication considerably reduces
routine maintenance and eliminates
sealing requirements, makes it
possible to operate in vacuum, in
sterile and corrosive atmospheres,
and in a wide temperature range
from cryogenics up to 450C.
Electronic controls
very high accuracy of shaft position;
possibility of displacing the rotor
inside, the air-gap making it possible
to achieve electronically very close
and accurate tool positioning for
machine tool applications compared
with conventional systems. It is also
possible to compensate'for tool
wear during machining operations.
The electronic controls and control
loop characteristics enable a reduction
in vibration problems due to imbalance
by electronic displacement of the
rotation axis to make it coincident
with the shaft inertia axis and they
impose a very accurate rotation axis
in spite of imbalance.
The reduction in vibration is achieved
by low synchronous stiffness
(synchronous stiffness is related to the
perturbations having the same fre-
quency as the shaft rotation speed).
Habermann and Li ard - An active magneti c bearing system
The accuracy of rotation gives a peak
synchronous stiffness related to the
shaft rotation speed.
Control loop characteristics make it
possible to accelerate through the
critical speed of the rotors with
complete safety by providing the
required damping forces. An active
magnetic bearing system allows the
stiffness and damping characteristics
to be tailored to the requirements
of the application.
Rel i abi l i t y
There are basically three kinds of
Since no mechanical contact exists.
between the .stator and t he r ot or , the
pr obabi l i t y of something going wrong
wi t h t he wi ndi ngs and sensors of the
magnetic bearing is small. Fai l ure of
el ectroni c cont rol s can be dealt wi t h
by redundancy of el ectroni c com-
ponents, alarms f or i mpendi ng f ai l ure
etc. Since the energy consumpt i on is
very l ow, power failures can be dealt
wi t h by provi di ng an al ternati ve power
source such as batteries or an el ectri c
An effective method which prevents
the rotor from touching the stator
is to equip the magnetic bearing with
emergency bearings, such as ball
bearings, which allow the rotor to
decelerate safely without gross damage.
Under abnormal conditions or when the
bearing is not energised, the rotor will
contact the ball bearings which helps
prevent damage to both the stator and
the rotor. The emergency bearings are
far enough away from the rotor to pre-
vent mechanical contact during normal
Mol ecul ar pump
The Actidyne system has been used for
small machinery such as the TUR-
BOVAC 550 M turbomolecular pump
from the W.German firm of Leybold-
Heraeus GmbH and Co KG, Cologne.
Use of the active magnetic bearing
system in this pump has the following
Free of grease or hydrocarbon due
to no lubrication,
Practically free of vibration
Very low energy consumption of
bearings (0.5 W) so an auxiliary
cooling system is not necessary
Very high compression ratio for
hydrogen (increased from 630 to
50 000 compared with a previously
manufactured pump)
More compact design
Figs 5 and 6 show the compact design
of the stator with the integrated ac
motor and the pump with associated
electronic controls.
The basis of the design is an internal
stator including an integrated ac
driving motor and an Actidyne bearing.
The two radial bearings are designed
with a 90 mm diameter at the air-
gap; thd axial bearing carries the 7 kg
rotor. The nominal speed of the pump
is 30 000 rev/min and has the follow-
ing advantages:
Fig 7 The Turbovac 5 6 0 M wi t h its associated electronics cabi net
TRI BOLOGY i nt ernat i onal Apr i l 1980 87
Habermann and Li ard - An active magneti c bearing system
Fig 8 Twin compressor: CB.55. 7 on the left and CB.45.8. on the right
Fig 10 20 000 N magnetic bearing with
stator opened up
2 0 0
- - . x : . - -
x W i t h o u t m a q n e t i c b e o r i n ( j
o W i t h m a o n e t i c b e a r i n g
" \
/ 0 ~ 0 ~ 0 ~. ~C ~-
- - - o
o 50 ioo 15o
Rototlonol frequency, Hz
Fig 9 Vibration amplitude vs speed of rotation measured at the magnetic bearing
sensor showing the ability of the Actidyne bearings to carry heavy loads and pass
safely through critical speeds
High pumping speed with a compact
Very high compression ratio due to
the optimised rot or/ st at or configur-
at i on, for example, for H 2 the ratio
rises t o 50 000)
Extremely low ultimate pressure of
2 x 10 -3 bar
Besides the pump characteristics, there
are other advantages of the system:
The pump is free of grease or hydr o-
Practically free of vibration with
almost silent operation
Very low friction losses of only
0.5 W at a nominal speed of 30 000
rev/min. Such low energy consump-
tion obviates the need for a cooling
Increased reliability (mt bf for control
electronics is higher than 30 000 h)
without mechanical routine main-
Fig 7 shows the pump and the associ-
ated electronic cabinet. After two
years, almost 200 pumps are in oper-
ation, some of which have run more
than 15 000 h.
Ex p e r i me n t a l compr essor
I n 1977,. a pr oj ec t i n i t i a t e d w i t h
Alsthom-Atlantique Corporation to
apply Actidyne t o machinery t o im-
prove the performances of turbo-
compressors was completed.
The development was based on a
methanol compressor previously manu-
factured by Rateau, a division of
Alsthom-Atlantique. The twin compres-
88 T RI BOL OGY international April 1980
sor CB.55.7 and CB.45.8 is a 8250 kW
out put power compressor of 9300
rev/min nominal speed. The com-
pressor was designed with two
housings and a set of 15 impellers
(7+8) was held on two coupled shafts.
The total length of the shaft is 3400
mm and a steam turbine drives the
The Ftrst stage of the development was
to redesign the model with one shaft
and to experiment with it on a test rig.
The shaft is supported by a central
magnetic bearing and two hydro-
dynamic oil bearings at each end (Fig
8). T h i s design modifies the rotor-
dynamics regarding the critical speeds.
The tests were conducted successfully
and demonstrated the capabilities of
Actidyne bearings t o carry heavy loads
and t o pass safely through critical
speeds (Fig 9).
Without the magnetic bearing being
activated, the first two critical speeds
ar ef l = 23 Hz and[~ = 95 Hz. The
shaft deflection close to the first
critical speed is so large t hat it makes
acceleration through the critical speed
impossible. The tests were actually
conducted by accelerating close to
Habermann and Liard - An active magnetic bearing sFstem
23 Hz and decelerating from 30 Hz.
By activating the Actidyne bearing,
there is only one critical speed which
is about as close as the second critical
speed previously experienced without
the magnetic bearing. This is because
the modification is related to the
damping force which limits the shaft
The amplitude of the deflection at the
critical speed caused by activating the
Actidyne bearing is quite high and
could be reduced significantly by a
modification to the magnetic bearing
A 240 mm air-gap diameter bearing
was mount ed on the test rig which has
a nominal load capacity of 20 000 N
and a nominal speed of 12 000 rev/
min (Fig 10).
The test results demonstrated the
capability of the Actidyne bearing to
be applied to large machinery with
heavy loads and also to accelerate
safely through the critical speeds by
providing a suitable damping force
from the electronic controls.
In addition to these demonstrated
advantages, other significant improve-
ments can be achieved by reducing the
design and manufacturing costs. A 20%
manufacturing cost reduction can be
achieved by a redesign of the experi-
mental compressor with three Actidyne
bearings. The new design is more com-
pact with a shorter shaft and has orgy
one housing. The orgy seals are on
the drive side.
Other significant improvements in
routine maintenance savings were
achieved by avoiding oil lubrication.
About 470 kW are saved using totally
magnetic bearing suspension compared
to the power consumption of an oil
bearing system and its auxiliaries.
After 10 years of continuous operation
of the compressor, based on 8000 h
of operation per year with $0.035/
kWh, the pay back will be $1,300,000.
Several new projects are under develop-
ment to extend the capability and to
test, on an industrial basis, such com-
pressors fitted with active magnetic
These two applications for industrial
machinery are significant steps for-
ward for bot h technical and economical
reasons to demonstrate the practical
"capability of the Actidyne bearing
TRIBOLOGY international Apri l 1980 89