The Challenges of Designing a Magnetic Clutch

Actuators, Solenoids & Electromechanical
By Kousseil Ben Ahmed | 13/03/2024

Crafting a magnetic clutch that meets the demands of contemporary machinery involves navigating complex challenges like actuation time, magnetic force, plunger speed, avoiding core saturation, and temperature control. Utilizing low frequency electromagnetic tools like EMWorks-EMS for virtual prototyping is essential for effectively tackling these issues. This blog explores how these challenges are addressed through the lens of a case study involving a clutch at different actuation voltages: 10V, 12V, and 14V, as depicted in Figure 1.


Figure 1: CAD model of the clutch

Actuation Time

The actuation time, crucial in magnetic clutch design, affects how quickly the clutch responds to an electrical signal. It varies with applied voltage, emphasizing the need for precise voltage selection to minimize power loss and ensure swift engagement. EMWorks-EMS aids in simulating and refining this parameter, allowing for the optimization of response times without sacrificing system efficiency. This process is vital for enhancing the clutch's overall performance.  Figure 2 illustrates how the coil's current changes over time at varying voltages, demonstrating the actuation periods. Meanwhile, Figure 3 focuses on the plunger's position, offering insight into its movement within the system. The figures highlight a key balance in magnetic clutch design: achieving quicker actuation comes at the cost of increased coil current, leading to higher energy consumption. This trade-off is essential for optimizing clutch performance in line with power efficiency requirements.


Figure 2: Coil current Vs time at a different voltages


Figure 3: Plunger position vs time at different voltages

Magnetic Force 

Analyzing the relationship between magnetic force and time, as shown in Figure 4, across various voltages reveals how different power levels impact the force exerted by the magnetic clutch. As voltage increases, the magnetic force generated also rises, showcasing a direct correlation between electrical input and the mechanical output of the clutch. This interaction is critical for understanding how to manipulate voltage to achieve desired force levels, directly influencing the clutch's engagement and overall performance efficiency.


Figure 4: Magnetic force vs actuation time at different voltages

Plunger Speed

The speed of the plunger, as shown in Figure 5, in a magnetic clutch is a critical parameter that varies with different voltage levels, significantly influencing the clutch's operational efficiency. Higher voltages tend to increase the plunger's speed, enabling faster engagement times and more responsive system performance. This relationship between voltage and plunger speed is essential for optimizing the magnetic clutch's functionality, ensuring it meets the specific demands of its application while maintaining energy efficiency.


Figure 5: Plunger velocity vs actuation time at different voltages

The Magnetic Flux distribution 

The distribution of magnetic flux within a clutch is crucial for its operation, directly affecting core saturation. Optimal flux distribution ensures the magnetic field is strong and uniform, enabling efficient power transmission. However, if the magnetic flux exceeds the core's capacity—a condition known as core saturation—it can lead to inefficiencies, overheating, and diminished performance. Therefore, managing magnetic flux distribution is vital to prevent saturation and maintain the clutch's functionality and longevity.  Figures 6-7 illustrate the magnetic flux distribution within the clutch, peaking at 0.48 Tesla, significantly below the steel's saturation threshold. This indicates efficient utilization of the magnetic field without risking core saturation, ensuring the clutch's performance and durability.


Figure 6: A fringe section plot of the Magnetic Flux density.


Figure 7: Vector plot of the Magnetic Flux density.

Thermal Analysis

The thermal analysis presented in Figures 8-10 illustrates the magnetic clutch's peak temperature of 65°C at 14V, underscoring the importance of maintaining operations within safe thermal parameters to prevent overheating and damage. This careful thermal management is vital for the clutch's dependability and functionality, especially at higher voltages. The observed temperature distribution aligns with the magnetic flux density, staying well below the saturation limit, further indicating effective design and operation within safe thermal and magnetic thresholds.