Advantages of Retrofitting & Rebuilding Commutators, Slip Rings, Collector Rings & more

Retrofitting is described as the measures taken throughout the manufacturing industry to allow new or updated parts/components to be fitted to old or outdated assemblies. We work directly with industry OEMs and have experience retrofitting commutators on the aftermarket side from a variety of OEMs including, but not limited to the brands and companies listed below:

  • Toshiba
  • Mitsubishi
  • General Electric
  • Hitachi
  • ABB & Brown Boveri
  • Westinghouse
  • Siemens
  • Otis
  • Allis Chalmers
  • Reliance
  • P&H (Harnischfeger)
  • Letourneau
  • Asea
  • Baldor
  • General Dynamics
  • Hansome Energy
  • Ward Leonard
  • Crocker-Wheeler
  • Jeffrey
  • Goodman
  • Lincoln
  • Hobart
  • Elwell Parker

Customers will often reach out to Electric Materials for a re-design or upgrade of an existing motor or part. They will send over everything they have, along with their requirements and specifications, and Electric Materials will then get to work on a project, in a collaborative manner with its customers, to meet the exact requirements of every project.

“We’ll get a call or e-mail from a motor shop that has a motor or armature in and their job is to repair it (i.e.- “we have a General Electric MD” or “We have a Westinghouse SK” that needs the commutator repaired).  They may send us pictures, a completed data sheet or just send us the commutator direct. It’s our job to either refill the commutator with new copper bars, new segment mica, and new insulating mica v-rings (for v-bound commutator style) or to manufacture a new, interchangeable replacement unit with new steel components.  Once the old sample commutator is received, it is then measured up, disassembled, components parts evaluated, work orders written and then the unit is manufactured. Our large database aids and enables us to manufacture units correctly to ensure customer satisfaction and to minimize downtime.”

Mike Ramsdell – Commutator Team Member at Electric Materials  

Sometimes, existing products are so outdated that rebuilding parts may be more cost efficient. However, retrofitting can improve a motor’s overall functionality by using advanced, updated materials, processes, and technology.

For most companies, machine tools represent significant monetary investments and must be maintained for many years. There are tremendous benefits in retrofitting heavy construction equipment for the wind turbine, mining, mills, and/or defense industries that often use extremely costly motors.  Since these motors are typically critical to operations, they are well maintained mechanically, and the average time between failure and the average time it takes to repair the necessary issues tend to be driven by the age of the electronics and the experience of the service team. Electric Materials delivers significant benefits to the companies when providing new or retrofitting and rebuilding services, including:

  • Long-term cost savings
  • Customizable solutions
  • Decreased time between failures
  • A decrease in the time it takes to repair

A retrofit of the rebuild will be significant cost savings compared to purchasing a new motor. It is important to recognize not only the differences in the purchase price but also the additional costs that may be required.

Reverse Engineer & Retrofit Commutators and Slip Rings for Industrial, Military, Mining & Wind Turbine Applications

Several industries–including industrial, wind turbine, mass transit, mining, and military–rely on electric motors equipped with DC commutators or AC rotors to produce the power required by their applications. However, without continuous maintenance, these vital components can become inefficient and eventually fail. Over the last nine decades, Electric Materials has been working with OEMs to increase our innovation, engineering, and quality assurance capabilities for refilling, retrofitting, rebuilding, and manufacturing commutators for motors that are involved in numerous applications throughout these industries.  

Retrofitting Slip Rings for the Wind Turbine Industry

Wind turbines have come a long way since the original turbines were built in the 19th century. Today, giant manufacturers such as Goldwind, GE, Vestas, Hitachi, and Siemens Gamesa build turbines with blades up to 107 meters long and operate up to 12 megawatts. Size and power aren’t the only features that have evolved in turbine technology.  With these massive turbines, comes powerful generators. The upkeep of the generators is critical in the wind turbine industry and can be very costly to replace. Companies also have to take into account that operators must shut the turbine down for hours in order to provide maintenance. Once the turbine is down, the opportunity for capturing energy is lost.

A common reason behind having to shut down turbines due to maintenance results from generators having worn slip rings. These old slip rings must be replaced by the OEM design or something comparable in order to start running again. This could take up to 5 months depending on the availability of the part or parts and how bad it is damaged. Electric Materials works with these OEMs and offers retrofitting services to cut downtime for the turbines, lessening the blow of not having the wind turbine running, results in a lesser monetary loss for the end-user.

Retrofitting Commutators for the Mining & Mass Transit Industry  

Mass Transit vehicles and their propulsion systems are completely customized for every use. Although different types and makes of propulsion systems perform the same functions, equipment in each particular system requires distinct maintenance and overhaul services. Consequently, there is a growing demand for experienced suppliers who can successfully meet the industry’s requirements for specific service solutions when a problem has occurred.

Electric Materials’ effective retrofitting services help provide quicker, more efficient solutions to propulsion system equipment that had been originally supplied by industry leaders including Westinghouse, ABB, GE, Siemens, Mitsubishi, Hitachi, Toshiba, and others. Manufacturing and retrofitting – including dynamic seasoning of severe duty units never presents problems and is common at Electric Materials.  Electric Materials retrofitting services cover mass transit areas including locomotive systems and powered vehicle systems.

When it comes to the mining industry, Electric Materials has over 90 years of experience in working with commutators for under and above ground mining operations. This also includes heavy drill motors, shovel motors, wheel motors, and swing generators for the mining industry.

Retrofitting Commutators for Military Applications

In addition to the commonly used heat, torque, and tonnage methods of seasoning commutators; some high-performance commutator applications require over-speed spin-testing to guarantee the stability of the individual segments, the integrity of the unit and prevent premature wear of the carbon brushes. These requirements are common with high-speed military applications where premature failure can lead to catastrophic consequences.

EM’s 90 Years of Experience in Supplying OEMs New & Retrofitted / Rebuilt Commutators for Various Industries  

Electric Materials’ experience is second to none when it comes to refurbishing commutators in some of the most demanding applications in the steel mill, wind turbine, mass transit, and naval industries. When a commutator comes in for a repair, our engineers have the capability to deal with commutators ranging from five inches up to 12 feet in diameter. After initial measurements are taken, the unit is disassembled, and each component is carefully inspected. If the steel components are within permitted tolerance, they will be cleaned and reused. Units are then rebuilt with new copper, new mica segments, and new mica v-rings using the same quality assurance processes applied to new commutators. Our extensive database of commutator information and history ensures that your unit is rebuilt to meet the operational demands of the final application.

When you need a commutator repair in a hurry, take the EM Express. This program is designed to get your commutator back to you in the shortest time possible. We will commit to a ship date that meets your schedule. When we receive your commutator, the process begins and continues nonstop 24 hours a day, seven days a week until your commutator shipped. Steel components are inspected and checked for integrity. High-quality silver bearing commutator bar is extruded and drawn in our in-house extrusion mill.

Have a question about retrofitting or refurbishing a commutator? Feel free to contact us to have those questions answered by one of our highly experienced engineers. We are sure to have your operations back up and running in no time with Electric Materials retrofitting and repair capabilities.

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