Components of Generators

What is a generator? At its heart, a generator is simply a rotating electrical unit.

Depending on its design, it may be capable of producing direct current (DC), alternating current (AC), or both. A generator is essential for converting mechanical energy into electricity. Due to its versatility and power, it is a foundational part of many advanced systems, including modern robotics.

Some key components of generators include:

Field: This is the device that produces magnetic flux when exposed to voltage. It consists of multiple coils of conductors that all work together when the source voltage is received – a process referred to as excitation.

Armature: The armature is the ultimate source of the generator’s output voltage. The magnetic flux in the field facilitates this output. The armature consists of a battery of wire coils, each of which can carry the generator’s full rated voltage.

Prime Mover: The prime mover is a type of turbine used to drive the AC generator. It could consist of a gas, steam, hydraulic, or wind turbine, for example. Some systems may even have redundant backup turbines.

Rotor: As the name suggests, the rotor is the chief rotating component of the generator. It is driven into motion by the prime mover. Depending on the system’s overall design, the rotor may be the armature or the field. The latter is more common in today’s systems.

Stator: The stator is the stationary design element of the system. It works with the rotor and, like the rotor itself, it can be either the field or the armature.

Slip Rings: Slip rings are specialized electrical connectors that facilitate power transference to and from the rotor. An individual slip ring is a circular conductor bound to the rotor windings, but insulated from the shaft.

Shaft Bearings: The shaft connects the prime mover and the rest of the generator. A series of bearings are precisely positioned to structure the relative motion of the system’s moving parts. This helps cut down on friction and reduce “wear and tear.”

Although there are many ways to plan and structure a generator system, an engineer should be familiar with each of these common components and their effects.

Want to get up to speed on motor and generator theory fast? It’s easy with MCMA’s Basic Motor & Generator Theory course. Aspiring and experienced engineers can deepen their insight into electrical and electro-magnetic systems, thermodynamics, feedback devices, and more.