Pulleys

Pulleys are well-known simple machines which can be used to reduce lifting force. The figure below shows (left to right) 1:1, 2:1, and 4:1 pulleys.

Y m X F m m
Let us derive the required lifting force for each pulley. The figure below shows (left to right) free-body diagrams (FBDs) for the 1:1, 2:1, and 4:1 pulleys.

F

F

R F1 F1

R F1 F1

R

W

F

F F1

F F1

W

F2

F2

F2

W
1:1 Pulley. For the left FBD above, from static balance the cable tension lifting the weight must equal the lifting force: F  W  mg . Then from equating the sum of Y forces to zero, R  F  W  2mg . This pulley does not reduce the required lifting weight. 2:1 Pulley. For the left of the center two FBDs above, from static balance the cable tension F1 lifting the weight is only half of the weight since one end of the rope is tied to the frame: 2 F1  W  mg and so F1  mg / 2 . The right of the center two FBDs above is similar to that of the 1:1 pulley; since the rope is cut for drawing FBDs, the same F1 acts down on this FBD as shown (equal & opposite forces from Newton’s Third Law). Therefore, the lifting force is F  F1  mg / 2 . Further, R  F  F1  mg . The total reaction force on the frame is Rtot  R  F1  3mg / 2 . This pulley cuts the required lifting weight in two.

4:1 Pulley. The left-most of the right three FBDs above is similar to the left FBD of the 2:1 pulley above: 2 F2  W  mg and so F2  mg / 2 . Since the F2 rope is attached to the middle pulley, rope tension F1 may be found from: 2 F1  F2 and so F1  F2 / 2  mg / 4 . The right-most of the right three FBDs above is similar to that of the 1:1 pulley; since the rope is cut for drawing FBDs, the same F1 acts down on this FBD as shown (equal & opposite forces from Newton’s Third Law). Therefore, the lifting force is F  F1  mg / 4 . Further, R  F  F1  mg / 2 . The total reaction force on the frame is Rtot  R  F1  F2  5mg / 4 . This pulley cuts the required lifting weight in four. Comparing the total reaction force on the frame for all three pulleys, we see that increased mechanical advantage also reduces the frame reaction force: this reaction force must be the weight, plus the lifting force F. As F is reduced, so is the total frame reaction. Obviously, a simple machine cannot reduce work, it can only reduce the input force effort. The tradeoff for reduced F in these pulleys is more rope must be pulled: the 2:1 pulley must pull twice as much rope as the 1:1 pulley, and the 4:1 pulley must pull four times as much rope as the 1:1 pulley. In all three cases the work (force times distance) will theoretically be the same. User chooses: Computer sets: Visualize: 1:1, 2:1, or 4:1 pulley m = 10 kg, g = 9.81 m /s2, (in the –Y direction). pulley lifting mass

Numerical Display: F, R, F1, F2, Rtot User Feels: Lifting force F

Examples: 1:1 Pulley 2:1 Pulley 4:1 Pulley

To lift the 10 kg mass 1 m against gravity (98.1 Nm of work), the results are: F  98.10 N, Rtot  R  196.20 N, Lrope  1 m F  F1  49.05 N, R  98.10 N, Rtot  147.15 N, Lrope  2 m F2  49.05 N, F  F1  24.52 N, R  49.05 N, Rtot  122.62 N, Lrope  4 m