A pulley, also called a sheave or a drum, is a mechanism composed of a wheel on an axle or shaft that may have a groove between two flanges around its circumference. A rope, cable, belt, or chain usually runs over the wheel and inside the groove, if present. Pulleys are used to change the direction of an applied force, transmit rotational motion, or realize a mechanical advantage in either a linear or rotational system of motion. It is one of the six simple machines. Two or more pulleys together are called a block and tackle.
Belt and pulley systems
A belt and pulley system is characterized by two or more pulleys in common to a belt. This allows for mechanical power, torque, and speed to be transmitted across axles and, if the pulleys are of differing diameters, a mechanical advantage to be realized.
A belt drive is analogous to that of a chain drive, however a belt sheave may be smooth (devoid of discrete interlocking members as would be found on a chain sprocket, spur gear, or timing belt) so that the mechanical advantage is approximately given by the ratio of the pitch diameter of the sheaves only, not fixed exactly by the ratio of teeth as with gears and sprockets.
In the case of a drum-style pulley, without a groove or flanges, the pulley often is slightly convex to keep the flat belt centered. It is sometimes referred to as a crowned pulley. Though once widely used in factory line shafts, this type of pulley is still found driving the rotating brush in upright vacuum cleaners.
Rope and pulley systems
Also called block and tackles, rope and pulley systems (the rope may be a light line or a strong cable) are characterized by the use of one rope transmitting a linear motive force (in tension) to a load through one or more pulleys for the purpose of pulling the load (often against gravity.) They are often included in lists of simple machines.
In a system of a single rope and pulleys, when friction is neglected, the mechanical advantage gained can be calculated by counting the number of rope lengths exerting force on the load. Since the tension in each rope length is equal to the force exerted on the free end of the rope, the mechanical advantage is simply equal to the number of ropes pulling on the load. For example, in Diagram 3 below, there is one rope attached to the load, and 2 rope lengths extending from the pulley attached to the load, for a total of 3 ropes supporting it. If the force applied to the free end of the rope is 10 lb, each of these rope lengths will exert a force of 10 lb. on the load, for a total of 30 lb. So the mechanical advantage is 3.
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