Model: N27 Flywheel Machine Element
Flywheels are used in machines is for the storage of kinetic energy. Two applications were in steam or gas engines and as a balance wheel in clocks. In both steam and gas engines the power is generated cyclically in the linear motion of the pistons. This oscillating energy is transferred to the flywheel, which rotates in one direction and serves to smooth out the motion. Balance wheels in clocks on the other hand take steady energy of a falling weight or a wound spring and help turn it into oscillating motion that is used to count or mark the passage of time. [See e.g. Model X-2.]

Reuleaux designed a number of Voigt models that were supposed to represent regulators in machines. Several were to use a flywheel shown in this model. However flywheels were not pure mechanisms in Reuleaux's theory of machines. The motion of pure mechanisms depends only on the geometric constraints between the parts. However, motion in machines with flywheels, such as in clocks and steam engines, are governed by Newton's laws of motion in addition to the geometric constraints. In spite of this inconsistency, Reuleaux constructed four clock escapements with balance wheels which are not pure mechanisms. In his more practical machine design book, The Constructor (1893), Reuleaux acknowledged that flywheels constitute a special class of machine elements.

Francis Moon 2002-00-00

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