Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Squirrel cage rotor
A squirrel cage rotor is the rotating part commonly used in an AC induction motor. In overall shape it is a cylinder mounted on a shaft. Internally it contains longitudinal conductive bars of aluminium or copper set into grooves and connected together at both ends by shorting rings forming a cage-like shape. The name is derived from the similarity between this rings-and-bars winding and the wheel on which pet rodents (including squirrels) run.
The core of the rotor is built of a stack of iron laminations. The drawing shows only three laminations of the stack.
The field windings in the stator of an induction motor set up a rotating magnetic field around the rotor. The relative motion between this field and the rotation of the rotor induces electrical current flow in the conductive bars. In turn these currents flowing lengthwise in the conductors react with the magnetic field of the motor to produce force acting at a tangent to the rotor, resulting in torque to turn the shaft. In effect the rotor is carried around with the magnetic field but at a slightly slower rate of rotation. The difference in speed is called “slip” and increases with load. Synchronous motors must use other types of rotors although they may employ a squirrel cage winding to allow them to reach near-synchronous speed upon starting.
The conductors are often skewed slightly along the length of the rotor to reduce noise and smooth out torque fluctuations that might result at some speeds due to interactions with the pole pieces of the stator.
The iron core serves to carry the magnetic field across the motor. In structure and material it is designed to minimize losses. The thin laminations, separated by varnish insulation, reduce stray circulating currents that would result in eddy current loss. The material is a low carbon but high silicon iron with several times the resistance of pure iron, further reducing eddy-current loss. The low carbon content makes it a magnetically soft material with low hysteresis loss.
The same basic plan is used for both single-phase and three-phase motors over a wide range of sizes. Rotors for three-phase will have variations in the depth and shape of bars to suit the design classification.
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