A torque limiter is an automatic device that protects mechanical equipment, or its work, from damage by mechanical overload. A torque limiter may limit the torque by slipping (as in a friction plate slip-clutch), or uncouple the load entirely (as in a shear pin). The action of a torque limiter is especially useful to limit any damage due to crash stops and jams.

Torque limiters may be packaged as a shaft coupling or as a hub for sprocket or sheave. A torque limiting device is also known as an overload clutch.

Disconnect typesEdit

Disconnect types will uncouple the drive, with little or no residual torque making its way to the load. They may reset automatically or manually.

Shear pinEdit

A shear pin type sacrifices a mechanical component, the pin, to disconnect the shafts.

Synchronous magneticEdit

A synchronous magnetic torque limiter uses permanent magnets mounted to each shaft, with an air gap between. They are very fast acting, but may have more backlash than mechanical types. Because there is no mechanical contact between the two shafts, they are also used to transmit torque through a physical barrier like a thin plastic wall. On some models, the torque limit may be adjusted by changing the gap between the magnets.

Ball detentEdit

A ball detent type limiter transmits force through hardened balls which rest in detents on the shaft and are held in place with springs. An over-torque condition pushes the balls out of their detents, thereby decoupling the shaft. It can have single or multiple detent positions, or a snap acting spring which requires a manual reset. There may be a compression adjustment to adjust the torque limit.

Pawl and springEdit

This mechanical type uses a spring to hold a drive pawl against a notch in the rotor. It may feature automatic or manual reset. A compression adjustment on the spring determines the torque limit.

Torque limiting typesEdit

Torque limiting types will limit the torque by slipping (ie. letting the drive shaft run faster than the driven shaft.) Excess power is dissipated as heat. They don't need to be reset.

Friction plateEdit

This type is similar to a friction plate clutch. Over-torque will cause the plates to slip. A simple example is found in a fixed-spool fishing reel, where the slipping torque is set by means of a large hand nut in order that the reel will turn and allow more line to unwind before the line breaks under the pull of a fish.

Magnetic particleEdit

A magnetic particle clutch can be used effectively as a torque limiter. The torque setting fairly approximates a linear relationship with the current passing through the windings, which can be statically or dynamically set depending on needs.

Magnetic hysteresisEdit

This type is non-synchronous in normal operation, so there is always some slippage.

See alsoEdit


External linksEdit

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