"Electricity runs through my blood like dogs, man if you could see it..."
^^ capacitor is defined as: "2 conducting surfaces separated from each other by insulating material such as air, oil, paper, glass or ceramic. Capacitors are capable of storing electrical energy. In some cases, a capacitor will block direct current and allow alternating or pulsating current to pass." This is our use. An electrolytic axial capacitor visually consists of a cylinder with a wire protruding from each end, like a fire cracker with a fuse on each end. A capacitor allows current to enter and pass through it, it does not "fill" up but will receive more charge with increasing potential until breakdown occurs. So, current passes through the capacitor, when it reaches it's limit, the micro farad (uf) / Volts limit which is indicated on the side of the capacitor, that amount of electricity flows through a wire located on the opposite side of the capacitor cylinder. The capacitor's "capacitance" is measured in micro farads the symbol is uf. Capacitance is defined as: " The quantity of electric charge which can be received by a system of insulated conductors from a potential source of given value". It is important to note these numbers as the capacitor used can influence the movement of the armature bar. A smaller capacitor, will make the machine run a bit faster because it will release the charge quicker. The smaller capacitors which enable a machine to run at a faster rate 47uf 35v or 47uf 25v, are recommended for use in an outlining machine used for groupings of 1 to 3 needles, which require quicker movement to apply a consistently clean line. IMPORTANT: The speed of the armature bar's travel is NOT controlled by the power supply, this is to say that when turning the dial on the power supply up or down, the speed of the armature bar's movement will not be affected. The power supply controls the strength of the coil's magnetic field in effect, controling the force at which the needles will penetrate.
Capacitors serve as regulators for the current passing through the electrical circuit of the machine's coil assembly. The current is 'smoothed out' and controlled.
Q: Can I assemble and run a machine without a capacitor?
A machine may be assembled without a capacitor but will run very "rough" and hot, resulting in a general inconsistent performance, and hole being burned all the way through the front spring. A large blue spark will appear between the contact screw and the front spring when a capacitor is not being used...this symptom is also an indication, if you are using a capacitor on your machine, that your capacitor needs to be replaced immediately. Other symptoms include inconsistent power surges or a decrease in power.
Recommended capacitance measurements for tattoo machine application are: 47uf 35v, 47uf 63v, 100uf 35v, 100uf 25v, 22uf 63v... Voltage should be no greater than 63v, it is not necessary. Along with the volts and micro farad measurements printed on the side of the capacitor, you will notice and arrow. To attach the capacitor to the machine when replacing it, the arrow must be pointing from the bottom of the machine to the top, in other words, the wires should run as follows: "lower" wire (under the bottom of the arrow) attaches to the same terminal as the rear coil wire on the lower binding post, the "upper" capacitor wire (above the arrow) should attach to the same terminal as the
"front" coil's wire is connected to and this termnal should touch the "upper" binding post. The capacitor wires can be attached to their own terminals and be assembled separately. This makes for easy removal and installation of the capacitor. The bottom of the capacitor arrow is commonly found next to the indentation on the capacitor cylinder. If there is no arrow printed on the side, the indentation is the "bottom" of the capacitor and it's corresponding wire will attach to the terminal at the lower binding post. Though this dent is recognized as "positive", this does not matter since there is no positive or negative on the machine, it is the direction that the current flows which must be addressed here so the arrow on the capacitor must point in the direction that the current moves-from the clip cord or RCA jack through the coils and the capacitor and ending on the terminal(s) connected to the upper binding post.
Remember to observe polarity symbols. If polarity is reversed, or if the working voltage or temperature ratings are exceeded, the capacitor may be damaged or could explode. In capacitors, the capacitance can vary according to temperature, this means that sometimes heat can cause breakdown of a capacitor's performance, so a machine which is struggling to do it's job, will run hot and this will cause the capacitor to break down.
Polarity is defined as: "An electrical condition determining the direction in which current tends to flow. Applied to direct current sources (DC); also to components when connected in DC circuits." This is our use. It is also defined as: "the quality of having 2 opposite charges, positive and negative". A capacitor has an arrow on the side indicating the direction the current should flow through it. This is important to us because there are no positive or negative on our machines, the current flows in a specific direction. This can be noted in the rotary machines. A clip cord connected to a rotary and then activated with the footswitch, will cause the rotary motor to turn in one direction, if the clip is flipped over, it will rotate in the opposite direction.
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