A Summary of Disc Brakes
A disc brake is a type of brake that utilizes calipers to squeeze pairs of pads against a disc or rotor to create friction. This action slows the rotation of the shaft, such as a vehicle axle, either reducing rotational speed or holding it stationary. The energy of motion is then converted into waste heat, which must be disposed of. Hydraulically actuated disc brakes are the most commonly used form of brake for motor vehicles, but the principles of a disc brake can be applied to virtually any rotating shaft.
Compared to drum brakes, which are brakes that use friction caused by a set of shoes or pads that press outward against a rotating cylinder, disc brakes offer better stopping capability because the disc is generally more readily cooled. As a result, disc brakes are less prone to brake fade that occurs when brake components overheat. Furthermore, disc brakes recover more quickly from immersion, which is beneficial due to wet brakes being far less effective than dry ones.
Drum brakes often feature at least one leading shoe, which gives a servo-effect, or error-sensing negative feedback to correct the action of a mechanism. Disc brakes, on the other hand, have no servo-effect and therefore its braking force is always proportional to the pressure put on the brake pad by the braking system via a brake servo, braking pedal, or lever. This gives the operator a better feel and also assists in avoiding brake lockup. Drum brakes are also prone to bell mouthing and trap worn lining material within the assembly, both of which can lead to a variety of braking problems.
The brake disc is the rotating part of a wheel’s disc brake assembly, against which the brake pads are applied. They are usually made from gray iron, a type of cast iron, but in certain cases composites like carbon, reinforced carbon, or ceramic matrix composites are used. The design of the brake disc can vary depending on the machine on which they are mounted. Some are solid, while others are hollowed out with fins or vanes joining together the disc’s contact surfaces. The need for ventilated discs is usually dependent on the weight and power of the vehicle. Motorcycle, bicycle, and many car brake discs often have holes or slots cut through them. These holes provide better heat dissipation, aid in surface-water dispersal, reduce noise, reduce mass, or offer marketing cosmetics.
The disc is connected to the wheel and/or axle. To slow the wheel, brake pads, mounted on the caliper, are mechanically, hydraulically, pneumatically, or electromagnetically forced against both sides of the disc. Friction causes the disc and attached wheel to slow down or come to a complete stop. Large brake discs are used on aircraft where they are essential for landing. Some aircraft feature brakes mounted with very little cooling, meaning the brakes get extremely hot during a stop. This is acceptable in this case because there is plenty of time for brakes to cool, and the maximum braking energy is relatively predictable. Furthermore, if the braking energy exceeds the maximum, aircraft wheels can be fitted with a fusible plug to prevent the tires from bursting.
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