Brushless Motors vs Brush Motors, what’s the difference?

What’s the difference between a Brushless Motor and a Brush Motor?

Well, the brushes of course.

Yeah, but what does that mean?

The principle behind the internal working of both a brushless DC motor and a brushed DC motor are essentially the same.  When the motor windings become energized, a temporary magnetic field is created that repels(and/or attracts) against permanent magnets.  This force is converted into shaft rotation, which allows the motor to do work.  As the shaft rotates, electric current is routed to different sets of windings, maintaining electromotive repulsion/attraction,  forcing the rotor to continually turn.

Construction differences

Brushes inside  electric motors are used to deliver current to the motor windings through commutator contacts.  Brushless motors have none of these current carrying commutators.  The field inside a brushless  motor is switched via an amplifier triggered by a commutating device, such as an optical encoder.

Windings are on the rotor (Rotating part of motor) for brush motors and on the stator (stationary part of motor) for brushless motors.

Brush Motor: windings on rotor, magnets on stator

By positioning the windings on the outside stationary portion of the Electric motor the need for brushes can be eliminated.

Brushless Motor: Windings on stator, magnets on rotor

There are hints of Brush motors being first developed in the 1830s, by Michael Faraday

Brushed motor Advantages:

Simplified  wiring:  Brush motors can be wired directly to DC power and control can be a simple as a switch.

Low cost:

Brushed Motor Disadvantages:

Less efficient

Electrically noisy: The switching action of the commutators constantly creating and breaking inductive circuits creates a great deal of electrical and electromagnetic noise.

Lifespan:  As they are in perpetual physical contact with the shaft,  brushes and commutators wear out.

Showing Brushes and Commutators

Showing Motor Brushes with Rotor removed

Brushless Motor Advantages:

Long lifespan: No brushes to wear out
low maintenance: No brushes to replace
High efficiency

Brushless Motor disadvantages:

High initial cost: Need for commutating device  like an encoder and a drive or controller

Brushless motor stator

Brushless Motor Rotor

Here is a cool video of a home made Brushless DC motor.  Notice the amount of arcing in the reed switch as fields are switched. This is due to the release of latent energy stored in the windings as they are switched off.

The real take away on this video is that the magnets are on the rotating portion of the home built motor.

Brusheless motor vs brush motor efficiency:

Brushless motors are typically 85-90% efficient whereas brushed DC motors are around 75-80% efficient.

This difference in efficiency means that more of the total power used by the motor is being turned into rotational force and less is being lost as heat.

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Jim is an Application Engineer for Quantum Devices Inc, a leading manufacturer of  Rotary Incremental Encoders.  He can be reached at jmiller@quantumdev.com.

Construction differences :
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About Quantum Devices Inc.
Quantum Devices, Inc. (QDI) Barneveld, WI, was established as a Wisconsin corporation in October 1989, as an outgrowth of activities in the general area of optoelectronics. The main goal of QDI is to provide customers with a complete source for all stages of product design and development, starting from concept to a marketable commodity. These products include application specific Silicon Photodiodes, Optical Encoders and Light Emitting Diodes (LED) for commercial, industrial and medical applications. QDI's photodiodes and LED's are used in instrumentation for photosynthesis and photobiological research, biomedical and medical instrumentation for measuring blood sugar levels (glucometer), oxyhemoglobin and pulse rate (pulse oxymeter). One of the most dramatic products developed at QDI was the application of LED lighting systems for use as the light source for Photodynamic Therapy (PDT). Sales of QDI products include both domestic and international markets. Quality and reliability are very important concepts in maintaining our company wide commitment to overall product performance. Quality simply means continuous process improvement. We are committed to continually increasing our product excellence through increased quality and reliability. Quantum Devices, Inc. is ISO 9001 certified and the ISO Standard will provide the guidance for the vital function of maintaining our commitment to constantly improve our product quality. Quantum Devices is now proud to introduce it's new line of rotary encoders. Incorporating QDI's patented sensor technology, our QPhase™ Family of Encoders feature high resolution, increased frequency response and superior reliability over temperature (0 to 120 degrees C). QDI incremental and absolute encoders set a new standard and are backed by a 2 year factory warranty. We invite you to request an evaluation unit, additional information or price quotations. Mission Statement Quantum Devices is dedicated to the principle that light provides the power for all life on earth. We believe the quality, delivery and control of light is essential to the wellness of man and his advancement into the future.

2 Responses to Brushless Motors vs Brush Motors, what’s the difference?

  1. Wonderful writeup Jim. I have shared this article with our Twitter followers.

    I encourage others interested in fundamental motor topics to check out beginner and expert electric motor articles at http://www.ohioelectricmotors.com/resources

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