The wind energy industry has grown tremendously over the past two decades and so has the slip ring technology. While turbine slip rings are miniature designs, their value is integral to the functionality of these motors. Essentially, wind turbine slip rings facilitate the transfer of power and data signals from the stationary nacelle to the rotary bladed in the control system. There are several types of slip rings available in the market. However, each device has unique specifications designed for the application and machinery where they are installed. You can also find standard slip rings for wind turbines, although it is essential to choose the ideal model for your unique requirements. This often involved making customized instruction orders that the vendor will use to design your slip ring. Here is a brief overview of slip rings and their use in wind turbines?

What are wind turbine slip rings?

A slip ring is an electromechanical device that is designed to convert electrical and data signals from a stationary to a rotary component. These devices suit applications that involve parts making infinite 360-degree rotations. As such, they come in various models and specifications to suit the unique applications where they are required. The common types of slip rings you will come across include through-bore (through-hole), pancake, PCB, FORJs and USB slip rings. There are also other distinctions, especially since slip rings are highly customized application-specific electromechanical devices.

The function of slip rings in wind turbines

In a wind turbine, the primary function of the slip ring is to ensure power and data signals pass from the nacelle through the slip ring to the control system rotary blades. This is essential for the proper functioning of pitch mechanisms and other hub controls within the wind turbine. If a slip ring fails to work, the turbine’s control system will shut down. Wind turbine slip rings are designed to withstand the destructive outdoor elements. Most are weatherproof, waterproof and corrosion-resistant. They also require less maintenance and feature sturdier components. Nonetheless, each slip ring is designed for the specific operating conditions, so a wind turbine slip ring features optimization for the machinery and environment. The rotor electrical connection features an extra interface that connects it to the brushes, which can be accomplished in two main ways. The first is by having a stationary center core that is brushed by the slip ring brushes joined to a rotating housing. The other option is to have stationary brushes with a center core that rotates, making contact with the brushes. The choice will depend on the wind turbine specs and unique requirements.

Choosing a slip ring for your wind turbine

Selecting wind turbine slip rings can be overwhelming, especially if it is your first time. Since there aren’t too many standard models, you will probably need customized orders, which requires outlining all your specifications for the device. There is a wide selection of circuitry paired with various amperage and voltage combinations, including AC and DC. Wind turbine conditions are harsh and can easily damage the stacked slip ring brushes. Traditionally, if any component of the wire brush is damaged, you will need to replace the whole block. You can use the damaged slip ring block to look for the ideal specifications required for your wind turbine. If you aren’t sure, ask the vendor for their professional recommendation. Three broad aspects of reviewing when selecting wind turbine slip rings include:

1. Technology and material used

Manufacturers use different technologies for their wind turbine slip rings. It is essential to compare the advantages of each before making an order. For instance, fiber brush technology provides extended slip ring longevity. However, fiber brushes have limited high power current and can get damaged if there is a power surge. Robust, solid metal slip ring brushes, on the other hand, can support significantly high power current. What’s more, if one brush is damaged, you can replace the damaged brush only instead of the whole block. Wire brushes can lose their metal plating resulting in loss of conductivity, so most wind turbine slip rings feature advanced technology to reduce O&M as well as surface degradation. Each technique has its unique merits and shortcomings that you should review before ordering your wind turbine slip rings.

2. Slip ring type, specifications and properties

There are various types and models of slip rings, as well as brands. Each offer is designed for specific needs and equipment. It is important to find models with proper specifications and desirable properties. Traditional devices require frequent maintenance to reduce mechanical degradation on electrical connections. New options, on the other hand, allow you to enjoy advanced properties. A higher spring pressure, for instance, can help to clean the ring during rotation. You can find advanced models that feature lifelong lubrication built into the design, which means you require less than ten minutes to complete annual maintenance. Other manufacturers have eliminated maintenance, while some focus on solid metal components to ensure constant resistance and conductivity throughout the harsh operating conditions.

3. Product reputation

Slip rings have low market demand and many vendors are reliable. However, there are many distinctions and some brands have built trust by providing slip rings that are consistent, functional and durable. It is important to choose reputable manufactures and brand models that have good reviews from the market. You can look up customer reviews or expert ratings for the vendor and the individual slip ring model. Some of the top slip ring brands include Senring, JINPAT, Moflon and Rotarx, but you can find several other trustworthy brands with a fair share of the market. Make sure the device meets all your specifications and has a valid warranty from the manufacturer.

Conclusion

Slip rings can make or break wind turbine performance, so it is essential to select the right device for your application. Some of the crucial factors to consider before ordering your wind turbine slip ring include material quality, annual maintenance and overall life expectancy. Make sure you review the model specification and find out if there are new advancements and features available for your wind turbine, especially if you need an upgraded version.

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