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The Importance of SWaP (Space, Weight, and Power) in Aerospace and Defense Applications

July 27, 2023

Though the Aerospace and Defense industry is constantly evolving, one thing remains the same: the need for more power, higher efficiency, and improved ruggedness in ever-smaller spaces. This is where SWaP comes into play. SWaP, or Space, Weight, and Power, describes three critical factors that must be accounted for when designing and implementing miniature motion solutions within A&D applications. Let’s dive into why SWaP is key in the A&D sector and explore how it impacts various aspects of the industry.

The Impact of SWaP on System Performance

SWaP focuses on a set of critical factors considered during the design, development, and implementation of aerospace systems. Here’s a breakdown of each SWaP component:

  • Space. Space refers to the physical footprint or dimensions occupied by the motor. In A&D applications, engineers focus on minimizing the size of components to ensure efficient system integration within space-limited platforms. This, in turn, frees up room for additional functionalities and payloads, enables enhanced mobility, and improves maneuverability.
  • Weight. Weight is the mass of an aerospace system. As A&D applications often operate in demanding environments, weight becomes a critical consideration for the motion solution. Reducing weight is essential for enhancing mobility, fuel efficiency, and payload capacity, while lighter components contribute to improved mobility and easier transportation.
  • Power. Power encompasses the system’s energy requirements, with a focus on optimizing the power requirements so that sustained operation is assured. Maximizing power efficiency leads to extended mission durations and reduced logistical requirements.

The Role of Motion Solutions in SWaP

The primary consideration for a motion solution used within an A&D application is increasing its power density/improving its power output relative to its size and weight. There are several different techniques and technologies that can be used to achieve this goal:

  • Advanced Materials. Using high-performance materials with superior electromagnetic properties can significantly boost power density. Materials like high-grade, rare-earth neodymium magnets and advanced laminations are two key components to be considered.
  • High Fill Factor. Increasing the fill factor refers to maximizing the space occupied by the copper winding in the coil or stator slots. This allows for more copper turns and results in higher torque production, increasing the power density of the motor.
    • Portescap’s slotted BLDC product line utilizes a semi-automated manufacturing process to maximize the copper fill factor in our stator design. This technique maximizes the power density and reduces the overall footprint required to meet the application requirements.
  • Winding Configuration. The winding configuration refers to how the motor's stator windings are arranged and connected. By carefully selecting and optimizing the winding configuration, motor designers can improve the efficiency, torque output, and overall performance of a brushless DC motor.
    • Portescap’s Ultra ECTM U-shaped coil uses straight copper turns to maximize the effectiveness of the magnetic field, with coil heads perfectly integrated into the compact motor design. Due to minimal joule and iron losses, maximum power is available to achieve the application’s specific performance characteristics in the frame size required. Minimal losses also mean greater efficiency and cooler operation.
    • This unique coil design allows two-pole motors to deliver 30% more torque when compared to the same size motor using a conventional coil design with substantially lower iron losses.
  • Optimal Design Geometry. Optimizing the motor's mechanical design, such as the rotor and stator dimensions and pole arrangements, can lead to improved magnetic flux paths and reduced magnetic losses contributing to increased power density and efficiency.

SWaP optimization is a fundamental aspect of aerospace and defense applications, with far-reaching implications for mission capabilities, and efficiency. By focusing on these considerations, aerospace engineers can meet the challenges of resource-constrained environments, drive technological advancements, and gain a competitive edge, ultimately delivering future-ready solutions. Reach out to Portescap here – we’re happy to collaborate on your A&D application.