Radial engine

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The radial engine is a reciprocating type internal combustion engine configuration in which the cylinders point outward from a central crankshaft like the spokes on a wheel. This configuration was very commonly used in large aircraft engines before most large aircraft started using turbine engines.

In a radial engine, the pistons are connected to the crankshaft with a master-and-articulating-rod assembly. One piston, the uppermost one in the animation, has a master rod with a direct attachment to the crankshaft. The remaining pistons pin their connecting rods' attachments to rings around the edge of the master rod. Four-stroke radials always have an odd number of cylinders per row, so that a consistent every-other-piston firing order can be maintained, providing smooth operation. This is achieved by the engine taking two revolutions of the crankshaft to complete the four strokes, (intake, compression, power, exhaust), which means the firing order is 1,3,5,2,4 and back to cylinder 1 again. This means that there is always a two-piston gap between the piston on its power stroke and the next piston to fire (i.e., the piston on compression). If an even number of cylinders was used, the firing order would be something similar to 1,3,5,2,4,6, which leaves a three-piston gap between firing pistons on the first crank shaft revolution, and only a one-piston gap on the second crank shaft revolution. This leads to an uneven firing order within the engine, and is not ideal. [1]

Most radial engines use overhead poppet valves driven by pushrods and lifters on a cam plate which is concentric with the crankshaft. A few engines utilize sleeve valves instead, like the very reliable 14 cylinder Bristol Hercules (built up to 1970' under license in France by SNECMA) and the powerful 18 cylinder Bristol Centaurus.



Charles Manly constructed a water-cooled 5-cylinder radial engine in 1901, a conversion of one of Stephen Balzer's rotary engines, for Langley's Aerodrome aircraft. Manly's engine produced 52 hp (39 kW) at 950 rpm.[2]

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