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DIY: Electric Motor

By: Ian Simmons

and Jon Burbank

Step 1: Introduction

Electric motors are fairly simple but very important. The basic idea is an axle, with electricity going into one end that rotates and spins to power a machine. Picture a spoil of wire lying in between two magnetic poles, when you connect the wire on either ends to a magnet, the wire will jump. This is because of the two opposite pole of the magnetic force acting on each other. The wire creates a magnetic field and the spool with start to move. This movement can be used to start engines, run machines, and used in computers. The first encounter to the linkage between magnetism, electricity, and movement was by a french physicist, in 1820 named, André-Marie Ampère.

Woodford, Chris. (2007) Electric Motors. Retrieved from http://www.explainthatstuff.com/electricmotors.html. (June 15,2015)

Step 2: Materials Needed

For this simple motor, you will need:

  • A D-Cell Battery
  • A Rubber Band (Two if accessible)
  • Two Paper Clips
  • 1 or 2 Magnets
  • 26 Gauge Magnet Wire
  • A Piece of Sandpaper Wire Cutters (Standard Pliers would work as well)

Step 3: Cutting the Wire

Take the spool of wire in one hand and extend this arm completely. Take your other hand and grab the end of the wire and pull it to the shoulder of your extended arm. Have a classmate hold the end of the wire which is not at your shoulder, so you know where to cut the wire. Use the wire cutters or pliers to cut the arm’s length of wire.

Step 4: Forming the Wire

Take the wire and wrap it around your D-Cell battery about three or four times. Cluster the wire’s loops together until you begin to see a thick circular figure forming. Have the ends of the wire jutting straight out from opposite ends of the battery, and make sure there is at least a few inches of wire left on each end.

Step 5: Fixing the Wire's Position

Carefully slide the wire loops off the battery, and pinch the coiled part together at any point so it maintains its shape. While holding the opposite end of the figure, take one stray end of the wire, and wrap it through the loop about three or four times to secure its position, and repeat this process on the the other side. Be sure to keep the two end of the wire jutting straight outward.

Step 6: Detailing the Wire

Once the wire coil has a fixed shape, some small detailing measures are required to make this motor work more efficiently. Start by pressing down on the wire flat against a table or other hard surface to make the figure flat. Next, take the stray ends of the wire and cut them down so each end is about 1.5 to 2 inches long. Flatten the entire figure once again, and mold the wire ring in the center to fit a circular formation if needed.

Step 7: Filing the Enamel

The red coating on the outside of the wire is referred to as “enamel”. Take the sandpaper, and carefully shave all of the enamel off of one end of the wire. Repeat this process on the other end of this wire, but only shave half the enamel off the end of the wire. Be careful not to press down too hard, or the wire may get shorted out.

Step 8: Shaping the Paper Clip

The next process will be shaping the two paper clips you have, so that they will be able to stay fastened to the battery, but also so they will be able to maintain the flow of the electric current from the battery and into the wire.

  1. Step 9A: Start with the paperclip laid flat. (Not much of a step, but just so you know where to start.
  2. Step 9B: Take the inner “loop” of the paper clip and bend it outward. It should look similar to the picture shown

Step 9: Shaping the Paper Clip (cont.)

  • Step 9C: Use the wire cutters or pliers to bend out one of the folded ends to create a “V” or “U” shaped cradle. When the motor is fully constructed, this cradle is where the wire will be held. The paper clip should look nearly identical to the paperclip in the picture to the right.
  • Step 9D: Repeat this exact same process for the other paperclip.

Step 10: Tying the Rubber Bands

Wrap the rubber band around the battery by putting the rubber band through the center of one of the faces of the battery. Then stretch the band so it extends up the side of the battery. Twist the rubber band on the other face of the battery so there will be an “overlap” of sorts. Extend back down to the original face of the battery, until you have two layers of rubber band, as shown below (left). Repeat the same process with the other rubber band if you would like simply for security measures, although this is not completely necessary. If done, do this at a position which will cause the rubber bands to look like an “X” on one of the faces of the battery, as shown here.Step 8: Securing the Paper Clips

Step 11: Securing the Paper Clips

Slide the paper clips beneath both rubber bands on each side of the battery, cradle side up. Make sure these clips are able to support themselves when fastened to the battery, and that they are about equal height.

Step 12: Placing the Wire

Place the wire in the cradle which has been made with the paper clips. The wire should be able to support itself with the two ends which have been extended straight outward.

Step 13: Placing the Wire

Place one or two small magnets directly beneath the wire, and it should be apparent that the wire will start to move on its own, and if each step was executed correctly, with maybe a small push, the wire should continuously spin on its own. If this is the case, then you have just completed your own battery powered electric motor! Congratulations!

Step 14: Trouble Shooting

Here are a few things to think about if your motor doesn't work properly:

  • Make sure battery has power
  • Make sure you remembered to shave the enamel off the wire otherwise no power will be able to flow through the circuit
  • Make sure the circuit is closed by ensuring the paper clips are attached to the end of the battery as shown
  • Make sure the magnet is right underneath the wire and has strong enough poles
  • Make sure your magnet wire is flat so that it won't slide to one side and stop spinning

Step 15: Creative Ideas for an Improved Motor

Lastly, here are a few ideas to boost your project:

  • Try adding another battery for more power, following the other steps but making the paper clips taller and the magnet wire longer with a bigger diameter in the middle
  • Try using a stronger magnet and see if this increases the rounds per second of your motor
  • Try using different types of medals for the wire and paper clips - some materials have less resistance and could make the motor more powerful
How much power can it generate?
<p>I LOVE IT!</p>

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