Robotics Class – Lesson 1 – Simple Machines Part 1 – Lever and Wheel & Axle

Robotics Class – Lesson 1 – Simple Machines Part 1 – Lever and Wheel & Axle (Compiled mostly from Wikipedia entries)

– Simple Machines –

A simple machine is a mechanical device that changes the direction or magnitude of a force. In general, they can be defined as the simplest mechanisms that use mechanical advantage (also called leverage) to multiply force. Usually the term refers to the six classical simple machines which were defined by Renaissance scientists:

Wheel and axle
Inclined plane

A simple machine uses a single applied force to do work against a single load force. Ignoring friction losses, the work done on the load is equal to the work done by the applied force. The machine can increase the amount of the output force, at the cost of a proportional decrease in the distance moved by the load. The ratio of the output to the applied force is called the mechanical advantage.

Simple machines can be regarded as the elementary “building blocks” of which all more complicated machines (sometimes called “compound machines”) are composed. For example, wheels, levers, and pulleys are all used in the mechanism of a bicycle. The mechanical advantage of a compound machine is just the product of the mechanical advantages of the simple machines of which it is composed.

– Lever –

A lever is a machine consisting of a beam or rigid rod pivoted at a fixed hinge, or fulcrum. A lever is a rigid body capable of rotating on a point on itself. On the basis of the location of fulcrum, load and effort, the lever is divided into three types. It is one of the six simple machines identified by Renaissance scientists. A lever amplifies an input force to provide a greater output force, which is said to provide leverage. The ratio of the output force to the input force is the mechanical advantage of the lever.

Levers are classified by the relative positions of the fulcrum, effort and resistance (or load). It is common to call the input force the effort and the output force the load or the resistance. This allows the identification of three classes of levers by the relative locations of the fulcrum, the resistance and the effort:

Class 1: Fulcrum in the middle: the effort is applied on one side of the fulcrum and the resistance (or load) on the other side, for example, a seesaw, a crowbar or a pair of scissors. Mechanical advantage may be greater than, less than, or equal to 1.

Class 2: Resistance (or load) in the middle: the effort is applied on one side of the resistance and the fulcrum is located on the other side, for example, a wheelbarrow, a nutcracker, a bottle opener or the brake pedal of a car. Mechanical advantage is always greater than 1.

Class 3: Effort in the middle: the resistance (or load) is on one side of the effort and the fulcrum is located on the other side, for example, a pair of tweezers or the human mandible. Mechanical advantage is always less than 1.
These cases are described by the mnemonic fre 123 where the fulcrum is in the middle for the 1st class lever, the resistance is in the middle for the 2nd class lever, and the effort is in the middle for the 3rd class lever.

– Wheel and Axle –

The wheel and axle is one of six simple machines. The wheel and axle consists of a wheel attached to a smaller axle so that these two parts rotate together in which a force is transferred from one to the other. A hinge or bearing supports the axle, allowing rotation. It can amplify force; a small force applied to the periphery of the large wheel can move a larger load attached to the axle.

The wheel and axle can be viewed as a version of the lever, with a drive force applied tangentially to the perimeter of the wheel and a load force applied to the axle, respectively, that are balanced around the hinge which is the fulcrum. The mechanical advantage of the wheel and axle is the ratio of the distances from the fulcrum to the applied loads, or what is the same thing the ratio of the diameter of the wheel and axle. A major application is in wheeled vehicles, in which the wheel and axle are used to reduce friction of the moving vehicle with the ground. Other examples of devices which use the wheel and axle are capstans, belt drives and gears.

The simple machine called a wheel and axle refers to the assembly formed by two disks, or cylinders, of different diameters mounted so they rotate together around the same axis.The thin rod which needs to be turned is called the axle and the wider object fixed to the axle, on which we apply force is called the wheel. A tangential force applied to the periphery of the large disk can exert a larger force on a load attached to the axle, achieving mechanical advantage. When used as the wheel of a wheeled vehicle the smaller cylinder is the axle of the wheel, but when used in a windlass, winch, and other similar applications (see medieval mining lift to right) the smaller cylinder may be separate from the axle mounted in the bearings. It cannot be used separately.


– Lego Models –


Wheel & Axle:



Robotics Class Notes – Lesson 1

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