Classifications of DC machines : (DC Motors and DC Generators)

Each DC machine can act as a generator or a motor. Hence, this classification is valid for both: DC generators and DC motors. DC machines are usually classified on the basis of their field excitation method. This makes two broad categories of dc machines; (i) Separately excited and (ii) Self-excited.
  • Separately excited: In separately excited dc machines, the field winding is supplied from a separate power source. That means the field winding is electrically separated from the armature circuit. Separately excited DC generators are not commonly used because they are relatively expensive due to the requirement of an additional power source or circuitry. They are used in laboratories for research work, for accurate speed control of DC motors with Ward-Leonard system and in few other applications where self-excited DC generators are unsatisfactory. In this type, the stator field flux may also be provided with the help of permanent magnets (such as in the case of a permanent magnet DC motors). A PMDC motor may be used in a small toy car.
  • Self-excited: In this type, field winding and armature winding are interconnected in various ways to achieve a wide range of performance characteristics (for example, field winding in series or parallel with the armature winding).
    In self-excited type of DC generator, the field winding is energized by the current produced by themselves. A small amount of flux is always present in the poles due to the residual magnetism. So, initially, current induces in the armature conductors of a dc generator only due to the residual magnetism. The field flux gradually increases as the induced current starts flowing through the field winding.

    Self-excited machines can be further classified as –
    • Series wound – In this type, field winding is connected in series with the armature winding. Therefore, the field winding carries whole load current (armature current). That is why series winding is designed with few turns of thick wire and the resistance is kept very low (about 0.5 Ohm).
    • Shunt wound – Here, field winding is connected in parallel with the armature winding. Hence, the full voltage is applied across the field winding. Shunt winding is made with a large number of turns and the resistance is kept very high (about 100 Ohm). It takes only small current which is less than 5% of the rated armature current.
    • Compound wound – In this type, there are two sets of field winding. One is connected in series and the other is connected in parallel with the armature winding. Compound wound machines are further divided as -
      • Short shunt – field winding is connected in parallel with only the armature winding
      • Long shunt – field winding is connected in parallel with the combination of series field winding and armature winding
classification of dc machines / dc generators / dc motors

According to this classification, a wide range of characteristics of DC generators as well as of DC motors can be achieved.

EMF equation and Torque equation of a DC machine

EMF equation of a DC generator

Consider a DC generator with the following parameters,

P = number of field poles
Ø = flux produced per pole in Wb (weber)
Z = total no. of armature conductors
A = no. of parallel paths in armature
N = rotational speed of armature in revolutions per min. (rpm)

  • Average emf generated per conductor is given by dΦ/dt (Volts) ... eq. 1
  • Flux cut by one conductor in one revolution = dΦ = PΦ ….(Weber),
  • Number of revolutions per second (speed in RPS) = N/60
  • Therefore, time for one revolution = dt = 60/N (Seconds)
  • From eq. 1, emf generated per conductor = dΦ/dt = PΦN/60 (Volts) …..(eq. 2)
Above equation-2 gives the emf generated in one conductor of the generator. The conductors are connected in series per parallel path, and the emf across the generator terminals is equal to the generated emf across any parallel path.

Therefore, Eg = PΦNZ / 60A

For simplex lap winding, number of parallel paths is equal to the number of poles (i.e. A=P),
Therefore, for simplex lap wound dc generator, Eg = PΦNZ / 60P

For simplex wave winding, number of parallel paths is equal to 2 (i.e P=2),
Therefore, for simplex wave wound dc generator, Eg = PΦNZ / 120

Torque equation of a DC motor

When armature conductors of a DC motor carry current in the presence of stator field flux, a mechanical torque is developed between the armature and the stator. Torque is given by the product of the force and the radius at which this force acts.
  • Torque T = F × r (N-m) …where, F = force and r = radius of the armature
  • Work done by this force in once revolution = Force × distance = F × 2πr    (where, 2πr = circumference of the armature)
  • Net power developed in the armature = word done / time
    = (force × circumference × no. of revolutions) / time
    = (F × 2πr × N) / 60 (Joules per second) .... eq. 2.1
But, F × r = T and 2πN/60 = angular velocity ω in radians per second. Putting these in the above equation 2.1
Net power developed in the armature = P = T × ω (Joules per second)

Armature torque (Ta)

  • The power developed in the armature can be given as, Pa = Ta × ω = Ta × 2πN/60
  • The mechanical power developed in the armature is converted from the electrical power,
    Therefore, mechanical power = electrical power
    That means, Ta × 2πN/60 = Eb.Ia
  • We know, Eb = PΦNZ / 60A
  • Therefore, Ta × 2πN/60 = (PΦNZ / 60A) × Ia
  • Rearranging the above equation,
    Ta = (PZ / 2πA) × Φ.Ia (N-m)
The term (PZ / 2πA) is practically constant for a DC machine. Thus, armature torque is directly proportional to the product of the flux and the armature current i.e. Ta ∝ Φ.Ia

Shaft Torque (Tsh)

Due to iron and friction losses in a dc machine, the total developed armature torque is not available at the shaft of the machine. Some torque is lost, and therefore, shaft torque is always less than the armature torque.

Shaft torque of a DC motor is given as,
Tsh = output in watts / (2πN/60) ....(where, N is speed in RPM)


Armature winding of a DC machine

Basically armature winding of a DC machine is wound by one of the two methods, lap winding or wave winding. The difference between these two is merely due to the end connections and commutator connections of the conductor. To know how armature winding is done, it is essential to know the following terminologies -
  1. Pole pitch: It is defined as number of armature slots per pole. For example, if there are 36 conductors and 4 poles, then the pole pitch is 36/4=9.
  2. Coil span or coil pitch (Ys): It is the distance between the two sides of a coil measured in terms of armature slots.
  3. Front pitch (Yf): It is the distance, in terms of  armature conductors, between  the second conductor of one coil and the first conductor of the next coil. OR it is the distance between two coil sides that are connected to the same commutator segment. 
  4. Back pitch (Yb): The distance by which a coil advances on the back of the armature is called as back pitch of the coil. It is measured in terms of armature conductors.
  5. Resultant pitch (Yr): The distance, in terms of armature conductor, between the beginning of one coil and the beginning of the next coil is called as resultant pitch of the coil.
armature winding of dc machine
Armature winding can be done as single layer or double layer. It may be simplex, duplex or multiplex, and this multiplicity increases the number of parallel paths.
[Related read: Construction of DC Machines]

Lap winding and Wave winding

In lap winding, the successive coils overlap each other. In a simplex lap winding, the two ends of a coil are connected to adjacent commutator segments. The winding may be progressive or retrogressive. A progressive winding progresses in the direction in which the coil is wound. The opposite way is retrogressive. The following image shows progressive simplex lap winding.
simplex lap armature winding

In wave winding, a conductor under one pole is connected at the back to a conductor which occupies an almost corresponding position under the next pole which is of opposite polarity. In other words, all the coils which carryy emf in the same direction are connected in series. The following diagram shows a part of simplex wave winding.

simplex wave armature winding


Basic construction and working of a DC Generator.

DC Generator

A dc generator is an electrical machine which converts mechanical energy into direct current electricity. This energy conversion is based on the principle of production of dynamically induced emf. This article outlines basic construction and working of a DC generator.

Construction of a DC machine:

Note: A DC generator can be used as a DC motor without any constructional changes and vice versa is also possible. Thus, a DC generator or a DC motor can be broadly termed as a DC machine. These basic constructional details are also valid for the construction of a DC motor. Hence, let's call this point as construction of a DC machine instead of just 'construction of a dc generator'.
Construction of a DC machine (DC Generator and DC Motor)

The above figure shows the constructional details of a simple 4-pole DC machine. A DC machine consists two basic parts; stator and rotor. Basic constructional parts of a DC machine are described below.
  1. Yoke: The outer frame of a dc machine is called as yoke. It is made up of cast iron or steel. It not only provides mechanical strength to the whole assembly but also carries the magnetic flux produced by the field winding.
  2. Poles and pole shoes: Poles are joined to the yoke with the help of bolts or welding. They carry field winding and pole shoes are fastened to them. Pole shoes serve two purposes; (i) they support field coils and (ii) spread out the flux in air gap uniformly.
  3. Field winding: They are usually made of copper. Field coils are former wound and placed on each pole and are connected in series. They are wound in such a way that, when energized, they form alternate North and South poles.
  4. armature core of a DC generator
    Armature core (rotor)
  5. Armature core: Armature core is the rotor of the machine. It is cylindrical in shape with slots to carry armature winding. The armature is built up of thin laminated circular steel disks for reducing eddy current losses. It may be provided with air ducts for the axial air flow for cooling purposes. Armature is keyed to the shaft.
  6. Armature winding: It is usually a former wound copper coil which rests in armature slots. The armature conductors are insulated from each other and also from the armature core. Armature winding can be wound by one of the two methods; lap winding or wave winding. Double layer lap or wave windings are generally used. A double layer winding means that each armature slot will carry two different coils.
  7. Commutator and brushes: Physical connection to the armature winding is made through a commutator-brush arrangement. The function of a commutator, in a dc generator, is to collect the current generated in armature conductors. Whereas, in case of a dc motor, commutator helps in providing current to the armature conductors. A commutator consists of a set of copper segments which are insulated from each other. The number of segments is equal to the number of armature coils. Each segment is connected to an armature coil and the commutator is keyed to the shaft. Brushes are usually made from carbon or graphite. They rest on commutator segments and slide on the segments when the commutator rotates keeping the physical contact to collect or supply the current.

commutator of a DC machine

Working principle of a DC generator:

According to Faraday’s laws of electromagnetic induction, whenever a conductor is placed in a varying magnetic field (OR a conductor is moved in a magnetic field), an emf (electromotive force) gets induced in the conductor. The magnitude of induced emf can be calculated from the emf equation of dc generator. If the conductor is provided with the closed path, the induced current will circulate within the path. In a DC generator, field coils produce an electromagnetic field and the armature conductors are rotated into the field. Thus, an electromagnetically induced emf is generated in the armature conductors. The direction of induced current is given by Fleming’s right hand rule.

Need of a Split ring commutator:
working of DC generator

According to Fleming’s right hand rule, the direction of induced current changes whenever the direction of motion of the conductor changes. Let’s consider an armature rotating clockwise and a conductor at the left is moving upward. When the armature completes a half rotation, the direction of motion of that particular conductor will be reversed to downward. Hence, the direction of current in every armature conductor will be alternating. If you look at the above figure, you will know how the direction of the induced current is alternating in an armature conductor. But with a split ring commutator, connections of the armature conductors also gets reversed when the current reversal occurs. And therefore, we get unidirectional current at the terminals.

Types of a DC generator:

DC generators can be classified in two main categories, viz; (i) Separately excited and (ii) Self-excited.
(i) Separately excited: In this type, field coils are energized from an independent external DC source.
(ii) Selfexcited: In this type, field coils are energized from the current produced by the generator itself. Initial emf generation is due to residual magnetism in field poles. The generated emf causes a part of current to flow in the field coils, thus strengthening the field flux and thereby increasing emf generation. Self excited dc generators can further be divided into three types -
    (a) Series wound - field winding in series with armature winding
    (b) Shunt wound - field winding in parallel with armature winding
    (c) Compound wound - combination of series and shunt winding

You can learn more about types of a DC generator/machine here.


What is an electrical machine?

Definition: An electrical machine is a device which converts mechanical energy into electrical energy or vice versa. Electrical machines also include transformers, which do not actually make conversion between mechanical and electrical form but they convert AC current from one voltage level to another voltage level.
what is an electrical machine


A generator is an electrical machine which converts mechanical form of energy into electrical form. Generator works on the principle that whenever a conductor moves in a magnetic field, an emf gets induced in the conductor. This principle is called as generator action.
Generators have generally two basic parts named "Stator" and "Rotor". Mechanical energy is provided to the rotor of a generaotor by means of a prime mover (i.e. a turbine). Turbines are of different types like steam turbine, water turbine, wind turbine etc. Mechanical energy can also be provided by IC engines or similar other sources.
To learn more about how generators work, read the following articles.

  • AC Generator (converts mechanical energy into Alternating Current (AC) electricity)
  • DC Generator (converts mechanical energy into Direct Current (DC) electricity)


A motor is an electrical machine which converts electrical energy into mechanical energy. When a current carrying conductor is placed in a magnetic field, the conductor experiences a mechanical force and this is the principle behind motoring action.
Just like generators, motors also consists two basic parts, stator and rotor. In a motor, we give electric supply to both the stator and rotor windings which causes a mechanical force between the stator and rotor. This force causes the rotor to rotate.
To learn more about electric motors, read the following articles.


Transformers do not actually make conversion between mechanical and electrical form, but they transfer electric power from one circuit to another circuit. They can decrease or increase the voltage while transferring the power without changing the frequency, but with the corresponding increase or decrease in the current. Transformers also belong to electrical machines.
Step up transformers increases the voltage level from primary to secondary but with the corresponding decrease in the current and vice versa.