Electric motors are a popular choice for mobile robots because they can provide high peak efficiencies, high speeds, and quiet operation. However, the continuous torque performance of these actuators is thermally limited due to joule heating, which can ultimately cause insulation breakdown. In this work we illustrate how motor housing design and active cooling can be used to significantly improve the ability of the motor to transfer heat to the environment. This can increase continuous torque density and reduce energy consumption. We present a novel housing design for brushless DC motors that provides improved heat transfer. This design achieves a 50% increase in heat transfer over a nominal design. Additionally, forced air or water cooling can be easily added to this configuration. Forced convection increases heat transfer over the nominal design by 79% with forced air and 107% with pumped water. Finally, we show how increased heat transfer reduces power consumption and we demonstrate that strategically spending energy on cooling can provide net energy savings of 4% – 6%.

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