I am working (as a hobbyist) on a motion system where there be electrical cable (multi-core for signaling) going to the moving part. I have considered multiple solutions to connecting the cable to the stationary base (see below). One of the options is to have a retractable cable mechanism. I am aware of mechanism that rolls the cable on a drum that is placed in the middle of the cable. I think this option is not suitable for the solution as that will add weight to the middle and the cable will slack under the weight of the drum quite a lot, which contradicts the purpose of the retractable cable. So my question -- is there any well established mechanism for retractable cable that is fixed on one end (i.e. on stationary side)?


  1. Mechanical (no electronics involved)
  2. Automatic (no manual intervention needed under normal operations)
  3. Compact (as much as it can be I guess)
  4. Simplicity (simple mechanisms are less prone to failures I think)

Alternatives (that I am well aware of, thus not in scope for this question):

  • Drag chain
  • Coiled cable
  • Sliding contacts
  • $\begingroup$ Check out the cable retractors used on vacuum cleaners etc $\endgroup$ – Solar Mike Feb 9 at 5:53
  • $\begingroup$ You will need a slip ring, if you want to only unwind in one direction from the hub. $\endgroup$ – Jonathan R Swift Feb 9 at 8:00
  • $\begingroup$ @JonathanRSwift do you mean sliding contact in the ring shape? That might be one possibility, but I am concerned over the reliability. It is used for signaling (5v logic level), reliability in signal is everything here, which is why I am not really considering sliding contact here. $\endgroup$ – Alexey Kamenskiy Feb 9 at 8:08
  • $\begingroup$ Hm, yes, the vacuum cleaner style would require a slip ring a.k.a. sliding contacts. Also from looking at it -- it is good for power transmission, but not so good for signaling as it generates a lot of noise. $\endgroup$ – Alexey Kamenskiy Feb 9 at 9:01
  • $\begingroup$ I've used these for passing signals before without trouble ebay.co.uk/sch/i.html?_nkw=capsule+slip+ring $\endgroup$ – Jonathan R Swift Feb 9 at 10:09

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