Most devices in an airplane, from the starter to the automatic pilot, depend upon mechanical energy furnished by direct current motors. A direct current motor is a rotating machine which transforms direct current energy into mechanical energy. It consists of two principal parts - a field assembly and an armature assembly. The armature is the rotating part in which current carrying wires are acted upon by the magnetic field.

Whenever a current carrying wire is placed in the field of a magnet, a force acts on the wire. The force is not one of attraction or repulsion; however, it is at right angles to the wire and also at right angles to the magnetic field set up by the magnet. The action of the force upon a current carrying wire placed in a magnetic field is shown in figure 9-67. A wire is located between two permanent magnets. The lines of force in the magnetic field are from the north pole to the south pole. When no current flows, as in diagram A, no force is exerted on the wire, but when current flows through the wire, a magnetic field is set up about it, as shown in diagram B. The direction of the field depends on the direction of current flow. Current in one direction creates a clockwise field about the wire, and current in the other direction, a counterclockwise field.

Since the current carrying wire produces a magnetic field, a reaction occurs between the field about the wire and the magnetic field between the magnets. When the current flows in a direction to create a counterclockwise magnetic field about the wire, this field and the field between the magnets add or reinforce at the bottom of the wire because the lines of force are in the same direction. At the top of the wire, they subtract or neutralize, since the lines of force in the two fields are opposite in direction. Thus, the resulting field at the bottom is strong and the one at the top is weak. Consequently, the wire is pushed upward as shown in diagram C of figure 9-67. The wire is always pushed away from the side where the field is strongest.

If current flow through the wire were reversed in direction, the two fields would add at the top and subtract at the bottom. Since a wire is always pushed away from the strong field, the wire would be pushed down.

Force Between Parallel Conductors

Two wires carrying current in the vicinity of one another exert a force on each other because of their magnetic fields. An end view of two conductors is shown in figure 9-68. In A, electron flow in both conductors is toward the reader, and the magnetic fields are clockwise around the conductors. Between the wires, the fields cancel because the directions of the two fields oppose each other. The wires are forced in the direction of the weaker field, toward each other. This force is one of attraction. In B, the electron flow in the two wires is in opposite directions.

The magnetic fields are, therefore, clockwise in one and counterclockwise in the other, as shown. The fields reinforce each other between the wires, and the wires are forced in the direction of the weaker field, away from each other. This force is one of repulsion.

To summarize: Conductors carrying current in the same direction tend to be drawn together; conductors carrying current in opposite directions tend to be repelled form each other.

Developing Torque

If a coil in which current is flowing is placed in a magnetic field, a force is produced which will cause the coil to rotate. In the coil shown in figure 9-69, current flows inward on side A and outward on side B. The magnetic field about B is clockwise and that about A, counterclockwise. As previously explained, a force will develop which pushes side B downward. At the same time, the field of the magnets and the field about A, in which the current is inward, will add at the bottom and subtract at the top. Therefore, A will move upward. The coil will thus rotate until its plane is perpendicular to the magnetic lines between the north and south poles of the magnet, as indicated in figure 9-69 by the white coil at right angles to the black coil.
The tendency of a force to produce rotation is called torque. When the steering wheel of a car is turned, torque is applied. The engine of an airplane gives torque to the propeller. Torque is developed also by the reacting magnetic fields about the current carrying coil just described. This is the torque which turns the coil.

The right-hand motor rule can be used to determine the direction a current carrying wire will move in a magnetic field. As illustrated in figure 9-70, if the index finger of the right hand is pointed in the direction of the magnetic field and the second finger in the direction of current flow, the thumb will indicate the direction the current carrying wire will move.

The amount of torque developed in a coil depends upon several factors: the strength of the magnetic field, the number of turns in the coil, and the position of the coil in the field. Magnets are made of special steel which produces a strong field. Since there is a torque acting on each turn, the greater the number of turns on the coil, the greater the torque. In a coil carrying a steady current located in a uniform magnetic field, the torque will vary at successive positions of rotation, as shown in figure 9-71. When the plane of the coil is parallel to the lines of force, the torque is zero. When its plane cuts the lines of force at right angles, the torque is 100 percent. At intermediate positions, the torque ranges between zero and 100 percent.

Basic DC Motor

A coil of wire through which the current flows will rotate when placed in a magnetic field. This is the technical basis governing the construction of a dc motor.  Figure 9-72 shows a coil mounted in a magnetic field in which it can rotate. However, if the connecting wires from the battery were permanently fastened to the terminals of the coil and there was a flow of current, the coil would rotate only until it lined itself up with the magnetic field. Then, it would stop, because the torque at that point would be zero.

A motor, of course, must continue rotating. It is necessary, therefore, to design a device that will reverse the current in the coil just at the time the coil becomes parallel to the lines of force. This will create torque again and cause the coil to rotate. If the current reversing device is set up to reverse the current each time the coil is about to stop, the coil can be made to continue rotating as long as desired.

One method of doing this is to connect the circuit so that, as the coil rotates, each contact slides off the terminal to which it connects and slides onto the terminal of opposite polarity. In other words, the coil contacts switch terminals continuously as the coil rotates, preserving the torque and keeping the coil rotating. In Figure 9-72, the coil terminal segments are labeled A and B. As the coil rotates, the segments slide onto and past the fixed terminals or brushes. With this arrangement, the direction of current in the side of the coil next to the north seeking pole flows toward the reader, and the force acting on that side of the coil turns it downward. The part of the motor which changes the current from one wire to another is called the commutator.

When the coil is positioned as shown in A of Figure 9-72, current will flow from the negative terminal of the battery to the negative (-) brush, to segment B of the commutator, through the loop to segment A of the commutator, to the positive (+) brush, and then, back to the positive terminal of the battery. By using the right-hand motor rule, it is seen that the coil will rotate counterclockwise. The torque at this position of the coil is maximum, since the greatest number of lines of force are being cut by the coil.

When the coil has rotated 90° to the position shown in B of Figure 9-72, segments A and B of the commutator no longer make contact with the battery circuit and no current can flow through the coil. At this position, the torque has reached a minimum value, since a minimum number of lines of force are being cut. However, the momentum of the coil carries it beyond this position until the segments again make contact with the brushes, and current again enters the coil; this time, though, it enters through segment A and leaves through segment B. However, since the positions of segments A and B have also been reversed, the effect of the current is as before, the torque acts in the same direction, and the coil continues its counterclockwise rotation. On passing through the position shown in C of Figure 9-72, the torque again reaches maximum. Continued rotation carries the coil again to a position of minimum torque, as in D of Figure 9-72. At this position, the brushes no longer carry current, but once more the momentum rotates the coil to the point where current enters through segment B and leaves through A. Further rotation brings the coil to the starting point and, thus, one revolution is completed.

The switching of the coil terminals from the positive to the negative brushes occurs twice per revolution of the coil.

The torque in a motor containing only a single coil is neither continuous nor very effective, for there are two positions where there is actually no torque at all. To overcome this, a practical dc motor contains a large number of coils wound on the armature. These coils are so spaced that, for any position of the armature, there will be coils near the poles of the magnet. This makes the torque both continuous and strong. The commutator, likewise, contains a large number of segments instead of only two.

The armature in a practical motor is not placed between the poles of a permanent magnet but between those of an electromagnet, since a much stronger magnetic field can be furnished. The core is usually made of a mild or annealed steel, which can be magnetized strongly by induction. The current magnetizing the electromagnet is from the same source that supplies the current to the armature.

DC Motor Construction

The major parts in a practical motor are the armature assembly, the field assembly, the brush assembly, and the end frame. (See figure 9-73.)

Armature Assembly

The armature assembly contains a laminated, soft iron core, coils, and a commutator, all mounted on a rotatable steel shaft. Laminations made of stacks of soft iron, insulated from each other, form the armature core. Solid iron is not used, since a solid iron core revolving in the magnetic field would heat and use energy needlessly. The armature windings are insulated copper wire, which are inserted in slots insulated with fiber paper (fish paper) to protect the windings. The ends of the windings are connected to the commutator segments. Wedges or steel bands hold the windings in place to prevent them from flying out of the slots when the armature is rotating at high speeds. The commutator consists of a large number of copper segments insulated from each other and the armature shaft by pieces of mica. Insulated wedge rings hold the segments in place.

Field Assembly

The field assembly consists of the field frame, the pole pieces, and the field coils. The field frame is located along the inner wall of the motor housing. It contains laminated soft steel pole pieces on which the field coils are wound. A coil, consisting of several turns of insulated wire, fits over each pole piece and, together with the pole, constitutes a field pole. Some motors have as few as two poles, others as many as eight.

Brush Assembly

The brush assembly consists of the brushes and their holders. The brushes are usually small blocks of graphitic carbon, since this material has a long service life and also causes minimum wear to the commutator. The holders permit some play in the brushes so they can follow any irregularities in the surface of the commutator and make good contact. Springs hold the brushes firmly against the commutator. A commutator and two types of brushes are shown in figure 9-74.

End Frame

The end frame is the part of the motor opposite the commutator. Usually, the end frame is designed so that it can be connected to the unit to be driven. The bearing for the drive end is also located in the end frame. Sometimes the end frame is made a part of the unit driven by the motor. When this is done, the bearing on the drive end may be located in any one of a number of places.