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Does using a number of stacked EI or EE cores in the place of a bigger one (respecting the know magnetic characteristics) would pose any substantial difference?1

There's even manufactures that sell glued cores, but I think 4 stacked cores is the maximum I have seen (ferrite cores not laminated ones).

UPDATE:

The idea is not to "miniaturize" the core, in fact they may be heavier and bigger than a single core, but to have access to high power cores if your local market is not selling larger cores.

In fact, the above manufacturer shows that even it sells some bigger cores as glued/united small cores and the specified magnetic characteristics from then

Single core: single core

Same core stacked: bigger core from stacked core

Both images from Thornton products catalog.

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Stacking multiple cores as you describe would effectively increase the cross-sectional area of the core. The question is then, what difference does increasing the cross-sectional area have?

Firstly, a larger core can dissipate heat without damage. This is because it has more surface area. If a smaller core would overheat (due to eddy currents, hysteresis losses, etc), then a sufficiently bigger core would not.

A fatter core also increases the inductance compared to a coil with the same magnetic path length and same number of turns, but on a thinner core. Why? Recall the definition of inductance: it is the ratio of magnetic flux to current:

$$ L = \frac{\phi}{i} $$

One ampere through a turn of any wire of any size produces a MMF of one ampere. As the area of the turn increases, this MMF is applied over a larger space, and thus, there is more flux, and thus more inductance. That is, we get more flux \$\phi\$ per current \$i\$ as we make the turn bigger. However, this larger flux is spread over a proportionately larger area, so the flux density remains the same.

Given that the flux density remains the same, the saturation current of a fatter core is the same as that of a thinner core. However, the fatter core has a higher inductance. We could then reduce the number of turns on the fatter core such that it has the same inductance as the thinner core. Being there now fewer turns, the flux density decreases, so saturation current increases if inductance is held constant.

Thus, advantages of a fatter core:

  1. increased heat dissipation
  2. increased inductance
  3. (or) increased saturation current
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As long as there is no significant mechanical differences from the magnetic viewpoint it should be much the same. Core laminations exist to limit eddy currents, and stacking cores is just separating some of the lamination groups.

Considerations:

It's likely that there will be slightly more gap at such boundaries if care is not taken to compress them together well.

Glueing core groups may allow a small gap due to glue thickness - and an air gape is vastly larger magnetically than the same distance in core material, so every effort must be taken to eliminate such possibilities.

Noise and vibration can occur if the core groups are able to move relative to each other more freely than can tight packed laminations.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Well I has not taking laminated cores specifically as your answer says, for ferrite cores there's no lamination, of course the air gap is then more accentuate, but I don't know how they glue. Maybe in the sides? Anyway, if its a laminated one, you would build it with the size needed instead of "gluing" groups of laminations, I think. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 13:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ As long as there is no significant mechanical differences from the magnetic viewpoint I think that's the question, we have just the "conventional" parameters provided. One will form a long rectangular core leg, the one with the "standard" dimensions will have a more square core leg. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 13:46
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Does using a number of stacked EI or EE cores in the place of a bigger one (respecting the know magnetic characteristics) would pose any substantial difference?

Stacking two cores (for instance) so that the cross sectional effective area of the core doubles doesn't give you any benefit magnetically (see edit section below) over the single core so I'm wondering the reason behind the question. If you double the area, the magnetic reluctance halves, allowing twice as much flux to be produced but, it's spread over the same area therefore, flux density remains the same.

As an example: if a single core was on the verge of saturation, with two cores in parallel and the same current flowing and same number of turns, the double-core will be at the same point of saturation. Nothing gained.

If, on the other hand you replaced an I (from an EI core set) with another "E" part, the length of the magnetic field through the core will increase and this increases magnetic reluctance and therefore decreases flux meaning, the core won't saturate as much for the same ampere-turns.

The answer is - it depends how you stack them.

EDIT

The question is about transformers and a lot of applications of transformers have DC running in the windings. If DC is the dominant cause of saturation then there would be no benefit in paralleling cores to obtain better saturation figures except when you can reduce the number of turns because the AC inductance/impedance will have automatically increased when the core area increased. If on the other hand, the transformer is voltage driven and the dominant cause of saturation is the AC current, doubling the area also doubles the inductance: -

\$A_L = \dfrac{\mu_0 \mu_e}{core factor}\$

Where core factor is length of magnetic field divided by core area, hence inductance doubles if area doubles. If inductance doubles and the transformer is voltage driven then current reduces and flux density also reduces and this can prevent saturation when it is the AC that causes saturation problems.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This can't be true. If it were, why wouldn't we miniaturize cores without bound? A larger cross-sectional area means more mass and more surface area to the core, which means it can handle more heat. Increasing the flux also increases the inductance, meaning a similar coil but wound on a fatter core has the same saturation current, but a higher inductance. If you instead reduced the number of turns to maintain the same inductance while increasing the core cross-sectional area, you'd get a higher saturation current for the fatter core. \$\endgroup\$
    – Phil Frost
    Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 15:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Andyaka You stack then because you don't have bigger cores available. Like I need an EE100 but can get more easily only EE80, so stack the two. The simulation at poweresim and the values presented by the manufactures shows a different situation than you tell. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 15:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PhilFrost I did say with the "same current and same number of turns". If it's a voltage driven ac coil then inductance does of course increase and current reduces. You can't miniaturize cores without bound because that also decreases the length of the flux path which also increases flux. C'mon you "accepted" my answer a week or so ago on virtually the same subject LOL!!! \$\endgroup\$
    – Andy aka
    Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 15:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Andyaka yes. Saying there is "no advantage" is quite different than "there are advantages that may not be applicable in some situations". Given that people put cores in their coils to get more inductance in a smaller area, I'd say increased inductance is very much an advantage almost always. \$\endgroup\$
    – Phil Frost
    Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 15:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PhilFrost OK, fair point - I've edited my answer \$\endgroup\$
    – Andy aka
    Commented Jan 14, 2014 at 15:40
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The multicored transformer when compared to the big single core can operate at basicly the same flux density because the type of ferite is the same .Now the big single core looks more like a sphere than say a lanky transformer that had say 4 cores .So the ratio of surface area to volume is better for getting rid of heat than the big single core .So the multicore cools better so you should get more power out of it because most SMPS transformers are thermally limited.I teach this surface area to volume ratio to the non mathematicly minded by saying there aint any eskimos that look like me .

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  • \$\begingroup\$ the long tranformer however has increased copper loss (over single core) due to the spools being rectangukar instead of being square \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 15, 2015 at 4:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Jasen ...Yes the DC copper loss is more like you say .But its the cooling thats better .The stacked core is seen on LV halogen transformers and flourescent lamp chokes .We are talking power to wieght not efficiency.l \$\endgroup\$
    – Autistic
    Commented Nov 15, 2015 at 4:25

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