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An Overview of Slip Rings

by Karina Popa

posted in Business

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The electromechanical devices known as slip ring units allow power and electric signals to be transmitted from a fixed to a rotating structure. They can be useful in any electromechanical system that needs uncontrolled, irregular or constant rotation during data and/or power transmission. Such a unit is capable of boosting the mechanical performance, simplifying the system operation, and getting rid of damage-prone wires that are fixed or hang from movable joints.
How They Work
Slip rings work by making uninterrupted electrical connections from points in a fixed unit to points in a section that rotates.
They may be known by different names like rotary joint, rotary electrical interface, swivel, collector and commutator. However, these names are referring to one and the same product.
It is essential to maintain slip rings properly and regularly, so they will be safe to use and function efficiently for a longer time.
Signal Transmission
Slip rings can be relied on just like other electrical control or monitoring equipment with reputable and proven design.
Slip ring circuits come with a sliding contact design that has at least a two-brush contacts. So that the data transmission of the signal circuits can be improved, they make use of precious metals.
Types of Signals
The following are examples of the different type of digital or analogue signals that have been successfully transmitted across the slip ring units' rotating interface.
  • Communications
  • Video
  • Serial Links RS232/RS485
  • Signals superimposed into 1kV power circuits
  • ESD signals
  • Fire & Gas
  • Data - PLC 115.2 kBaud (2 x 1,000,000 transmitted and received accurate messages)
  • Single or Multi-mode Fibre optic and plastics fibre (1mm)

Slip rings are often called electric swivels, collector rings and rotary electrical joints. Though they can be fabricated using various conductive materials, gold alloy contacts or copper are often used, as well as silver and coin silver. The insulation used between the ring and the shaft consists of a wide range of synthetics like nylon and phenolic plastic, among others. Every ring is rated by factors such as voltage, current, speed and insulation resistance. Manufacturers often provide an approximate life for every ring to guarantee efficiency and proper replacement. Speed is rated in rotations per minute. The approximate life is usually measured based on how fast and long it is used (2000 hours maximum rotations per minute).
A slip ring assembly usually consists of brush blocks that are properly matched and commonly sold as a set of ring and brush. These sets can replace the required components or serve as parts that custom assembly designers need. Brushes are blocks consisting of carbon/graphite materials that have conductive mountings connecting to the system outside rotating components. These products are most commonly used in brushed generators.
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