A proposed mechanical breakaway clutch would not rely on friction. The clutch would be useful in environments in which the inherent inaccuracies of friction would make friction clutches erratic. The proposed clutch would comprise two primary assemblies: a driver assembly and a slip flange. The slip flange would be an internally splined cup driven by the driver assembly. The driver assembly would feature a sliding spring that would provide full adjustability. Roller bearings could be used to deflect the spring simultaneously as they were forced inward by the splines of the slip flange. In an alternate configuration, rotating cams would be used in place of the ball bearings. By varying the linear position of the spring assembly, one could adjust the level of torque at which the clutch would slip.
This work was done by Jeffrey K. Hostetler of Johnson Space Center. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.nasatech.com/tsp under the Mechanics category.