You may be familiar with centrifugal clutches (sometimes referred to as a friction clutch), a type of clutch that uses rotational (centrifugal) force from a power source to drive a shaft, chain, or belt.
Centrifugal clutches can be found in chainsaws, sawmills, conveyors, compressors,and other engine applications. By using centrifugal force, the clutch shoes slowly push outward against the housing, rotating a torque-powered device. When the clutch is idle, the springs contract to prevent torque transfer.
As you can imagine, custom centrifugal clutches and friction clutches can be used in a variety of applications. But what about other clutches? How does a centrifugal clutch compare with other types of clutches? And what are the advantages and disadvantages of centrifugal clutches? In this post, we’ll explain both the benefits and tradeoffs from centrifugal clutches to help you better understand how to use them for your own needs.
Advantages of Centrifugal Clutches/Friction Clutches
From lower maintenance to lower costs, there are several reasons to opt for the centrifugal clutch over alternative types:
- Automatic – Centrifugal clutches automatically engage and disengage. You don’t need any type of control mechanism. Centrifugal clutch relies on the laws of physics.
- Lower costs – Centrifugal clutches are relatively inexpensive compared to other clutch types. Partly because there are fewer parts involved, no battery or additional components necessary.
- Low maintenance requirements – In terms of servicing and maintenance, centrifugal clutches are more cost-effective. As long as the initial design and construction is sound, there is little chance the system will break or wear away.
- Less chance of engine stalling and damage – Heavy loads and abrupt starts can put a burden on engines. Instead, progressive engagement with the load is safer. Centrifugal clutches specialize in smooth and shockless acceleration.
- Greater engagement speed control – The centrifugal clutch progressively engages to increase torque from the engine to the load. This ensures a much longer lifespan and more energy saved on startup.
When to Use Manual Clutch Alternatives
While friction clutches bring numerous benefits, they’re not always a fit for every application. Here are a few notes to be aware of if you plan on using a centrifugal clutch:
- Engines with low RPM may cause slippage. In devices with relatively low RPM, there would be higher amounts of friction that could heat up the clutch case and lead to a loss of power.
- Peak speed of a centrifugal clutch will depend on the clutch size. The smaller the clutch the faster the speed. This is due to friction pads or shoe movement.
- Ideal for engines with a broad range of speed. When your engine reaches a certain speed and activates the clutch, the load increases while the speed decreases — thereby disengaging the clutch again to allow the speed to resume. This makes centrifugal clutches ideal for devices that will fluctuate in speed, but could create waste heat for devices with one consistent speed.
If your engine requires significantly high or low RPM or a consistent speed, you may want to consider some popular alternatives to the centrifugal clutch, including the manual, hydraulic, and electrical clutches:
- Manual Clutch – Found in manual transmission vehicles, these clutches must be engaged by the operator.
- Hydraulic Clutch – These clutches use oil to push pistons back and forth to engage the clutch. Requires more energy on startup and has several potential points of failure.
- Electrical Clutch – Converts electricity into mechanical energy. The battery passes a current to create an electromagnetic field, which in turn attracts a pressure plate to engage a clutch.
About BLM Centrifugal Clutch Solutions
BLM Centrifugal Clutches are the industry leaders in custom centrifugal clutches. For over 80 years, BLM Centrifugal Clutch has serviced both public and private contracts, spanning the military, mining, agriculture, chemical, and governmental sectors. We are also Compliant with ISO 9002.
In addition to a proven track record, BLM Centrifugal Solutions is the only brand that offers the highest levels of customization for a variety of requirements and applications. Customization is available for single-use or one of a kind specialized applications, like painted or electroplated finishes. Finally, all centrifugal solutions include maintenance, repair, and warranty.
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Want to learn how your own business or product can benefit from a custom centrifugal clutch? Contact BLM Centrifugal Solutions today. No other competitor will offer this level of support and customization, and no other competitor even comes close in terms of quality and durability. We have proven our reputation in six major industries, and we will assist you with your product long after purchase. Don’t delay, contact us today!