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DC vs. AC Motor: What’s the Difference?

You need an industrial motor, but what kind should you get: AC or DC?

That depends on what you’re trying to accomplish with the motor. There’s no clear winner in the DC vs. AC motor debate, but learning more about how each motor works can help you decide.

First, let’s answer the question, “What is the difference between AC and DC motors?”

How AC Motors are Built

An AC motor uses alternating current. That’s where the “AC” part enters the picture.

There are two types of AC motors. The first is an induction motor, also known as an asynchronous motor. It works like this: A part called the stator winds and produces electromagnetic induction, which is then turned into the electric current that propels the rotor.

Then there’s the synchronous motor. If you’ve noticed that synchronous sounds like “synchronized,” then you’re onto something. The shaft rotates in sync with the supply current’s frequency.

The Edison Tech Center in Schenectady, New York, calls induction motors “the most popular electric motor in the world.” It credits the motor’s longevity to its simplicity of design.

Synchronous motors aren’t as simple, but they’re still popular.

How DC Motors are Built

In DC motors, the “DC” stands for “direct current.” That’s what these motors use for power; it has nothing to do with the District of Columbia.

Their power often comes via batteries. If you took a close look at a DC motor, the parts you’d find would include a rotor and an axle. They come in brushed and brushless models.

Both models also use magnets, but the magnets work in different ways. The brushless models are newer, and they’re generally considered more efficient than the brushed models, due in large part to how the magnets are placed.

Now that we’ve covered the difference between AC and DC motors let’s look at the different applications for them.

DC vs. AC Motors: How We Use Them

Did you have a piece of toast for breakfast this morning? Maybe a bagel instead? In either case, you used an AC motor to warm up the bread before you ate it.

When you take the toaster cord and plug it into an electrical outlet, you probably aren’t thinking, “I’m connecting to the AC power supply,” but that’s what’s happening.

Maybe you prefer to stick with coffee from the drive-thru in the mornings. If so, guess what? The friendly barista brewed your espresso with an AC motor.

If you had an electric car 20 years ago, it would have been powered by a DC brushless drive. In the induction motor vs. DC motor debate, the latter is winning handily. Only a few electric vehicles have used an induction drive, including the Tesla Roadster.

If you’ve gone off-roading in an ATV, though, you can thank a DC motor. They’re also used for things like electric wheelchairs, chemical pumps, and sprayers.

Some types of motors come in both AC and DC versions. For instance, if you wanted to, you could switch between an AC and DC crane motor.

More About Motors

Want to know more? There’s no need to wring your hands as you ponder a DC vs. AC motor.

If you’ve got additional questions, we can answer them. We provide all sorts of motors for all kinds of industrial uses, so contact us today.

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