Army eyes new electrical interconnect for tanks

TRENTON, N.J. - U.S. Army tank designers are expressing guarded interest in a new slip ring design that has the potential to increase data throughput and reduce maintenance on turreted combat vehicles such as tanks and armored personnel carriers.

Feb 1st, 1997

By John Keller

TRENTON, N.J. - U.S. Army tank designers are expressing guarded interest in a new slip ring design that has the potential to increase data throughput and reduce maintenance on turreted combat vehicles such as tanks and armored personnel carriers.

Engineers from Fifth Dimension Inc. of Trenton, N.J., are introducing what they claim is "the first major breakthrough in slip ring technology in the past 30 years," with a new turret interconnect that replaces standard fixed-contact brush slip rings with a rolling-contact design.

A slip ring is the electrical interconnect between computers and sensors in a vehicle`s revolving turret with power electronics and the drive system in the hull. Slip rings also are important parts of medical scanners, radar pedestals, and satellite solar array panels.

"Slip rings have always been a problem in our combat vehicles," explains Anthony Comito, associate director of the National Automotive Center in Warren, Mich., and former branch chief for the U.S. Army Tank-automotive & Armament Command Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) in Warren, Mich.

"Slip rings can limit the number of circuits we can get through, and reliability is a problem," Comito says. "Brushes can wear out, and if you are using digital data, throughput is a problem. Any new slip ring technology would be of interest to the military."

The new Fifth Dimension slip ring "works with a number of balls running in the ring, so there is no sliding contact; it is a rolling contact," explains Craig Ebner, the company`s president and CEO.

"One of the problems with a standard slip ring is the wear of the brushes," Ebner says. "Because you have a sliding contact against the ring, the brushes wear and cause debris that can cause short circuits. And the brush itself wears out and needs replacement. With our new device the reliability should be much greater."

Another TARDEC scientist says he is interested in the new slip ring, but needs more information before he will be convinced of its value. "It would be interest to us, but I need to know what is the data capacity," says Chris Ostrowski, leader of TARDEC`s electronic architecture team.

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