Brushless DC (BLDC) motors are referred to as Brushless Permanent Magnet. Permanent Magnet AC motors, Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motors, etc. The confusion arises because a brushless DC motor does not directly operate off a DC voltage source. However, the basic principle of operation is similar to a DC motor.

A Brushless DC Motor has:

  • A rotor with permanent magnets and a stator with windings
  • A BLDC motor is essentially a DC motor turned inside out
  • Brushes and commutator have been eliminated and the windings are connected to the control electronics
  • Control electronics replace the function of the commutator and energize the proper winding
  • Windings are energized in a pattern which rotates around the stator
  • The energized stator winding leads the rotor magnet and switches just as the rotor aligns with the stator

This motor is referred to as a "DC" motor because its coils are driven by a DC power source which is applied to the various stator coils in a predetermined sequential pattern. This process is known as commutation. However, "BLDC" is really a misnomer, since the motor is effectively an AC motor. The current in each coil alternates from positive to negative during each electrical cycle. The stator is typically a salient pole structure which is designed to produce a trapezoidal back-EMF waveshape which matches the applied commutated voltage waveform as closely as possible. However, this is very hard to do in practice, and the resulting back-EMF waveform often looks more sinusoidal than trapezoidal. For this reason, many of the control techniques used with a PMSM motor (such as Field Oriented Control) can equally be applied to a BLDC motor

Another misconception about the BLDC motor is related to how it is driven. Unlike an open-loop stepper application where the rotor position is determined by which stator coil is driven, in a BLDC motor, which stator coil is driven is determined by the rotor position. The stator flux vector position must be synchronized to the rotor flux vector position (not the other way around) in order to obtain smooth operation of the motor. In order to accomplish this, knowledge of the rotor position is required in order to determine which stator coils to energize. Several techniques exist to do this, but the most popular technique is to monitor the rotor position using hall-effect sensors. Unfortunately, these sensors and their associated connectors and harnesses result in increased system cost, and reduced reliability.

In an effort to mitigate these issues, several techniques have been developed to eliminate these sensors, resulting in sensorless operation. Most of these techniques are based upon extracting position information from the back-EMF waveforms of the stator windings while the motor is spinning. However, techniques based on back-EMF sensing fall apart when the motor is spinning slowly or at a standstill, since the back-EMF waveforms are faint or non-existent. As a result, new techniques are constantly being developed which obtain rotor position information from other signals at low or zero speed.

BLDC motors reign supreme in efficiency ratings, where values in the mid-nineties percent range are routinely obtained. Current research into new amorphous core materials is pushing this number even higher. Ninety six percent efficiency in the 100W range has been reported. They also compete for the title of fastest motor in the world, with speeds on some motors achieving several hundred thousand RPM (400K RPM reported in one application).

The most common BLDC motor topology utilizes a stator structure consisting of three phases. As a result, a standard 6-transistor inverter is the most commonly used power stage, as shown in the diagram. Depending on the operational requirements (sensored vs. sensorless, commutated vs. sinusoidal, PWM vs. SVM, etc.) there are many different ways to drive the transistors to achieve the desired goal, which are too numerous to cover here. This places a significant requirement on the flexibility of the PWM generator, which is typically located in the microcontroller. 

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Power electronics
Electrical Drives
Power systems
Digital Signal Processing
Digital image processing
Analog Desing
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