Simple machine

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A simple machine is a mechanical device that changes the direction or magnitude of a force.[2] In general, they can be defined as the simplest mechanisms that use mechanical advantage (also called leverage) to multiply force.[3] 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. They can be used to 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 input force is called the mechanical advantage.

Usually the term refers to the six classical simple machines which were defined by Renaissance scientists:[4]

They are the elementary "building blocks" of which all more complicated machines (sometimes called "compound machines"[5] to emphasize that they are combinations of the simpler building blocks) are composed.[3][6] For example, wheels, levers, and pulleys are all used in the mechanism of a bicycle.

Simple machines fall into two classes; those dependent on the vector resolution of forces (inclined plane, wedge, screw) and those in which there is an equilibrium of torques (lever, pulley, wheel).



The idea of a "simple machine" originated with the Greek philosopher Archimedes around the 3rd century BC, who studied the "Archimedean" simple machines: lever, pulley, and screw.[3] He discovered the principle of mechanical advantage in the lever.[7] His understanding was limited to the static balance of forces and did not include the trade-off between force and distance moved. Heron of Alexandria (ca. 10–75 AD) in his work Mechanics lists five mechanisms with which a load can be set in motion: The winch, lever, pulley, wedge, and screw.[8] During the Renaissance the classic five simple machines (excluding the wedge) began to be studied as a group. The complete dynamic theory of simple machines was worked out by Italian scientist Galileo Galilei in 1600 in Le Meccaniche ("On Mechanics"). He was the first to understand that simple machines do not create energy, only transform it.[9]

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