Mechanical Overkill, an Undesirable Tradeoff in Compound Pulleys

We’ve been discussing the mechanical advantage that compound pulleys provide to humans during lifting operations and last time we hit upon the fact that there comes a point of diminished return, a reality that engineers must negotiate in their mechanical designs.   Here we’ll discuss one of the undesirable trade offs that results in a diminished return within a compound pulley arrangement when we compute the length of rope the Grecian man we’ve been following must grapple in order to lift his urn.   What we’ll discover is a situation of mechanical overkill – like using a steamroller to squash a bug. Mechanical Overkill  Just how much rope does Mr. Toga need to extract from our working example compound pulley to lift his urn two feet above the ground?   To find out we’ll need to revisit the fact that the compound pulley is a work input-output device.As presented in a previous topic, the equations for work input, WI, and work output, WO, we’ll be using are,WI = F × d2WO = W × d1           Now, ideally, in a compound pulley no friction exists in the wheels to impede the rope’s movement, and that will be our scenario today.  Our next topic will deal with the more complex situation where friction is present.   So for our example today, with no friction present, work input equals output…WI = WO… and this fact allows us to develop an equation in terms of the rope length/distance factors in our compound pulley assembly, represented by d1 and d2, …F × d2 = W × d1d2 ÷ d= W ÷ F           Now, from our old topic we know that W divided by F represents the mechanical advantage, MA, to Mr. Toga of using the compound pulley, which was found to be 16, equivalent to the sections of rope directly supporting the urn.   We’ll set the distance factors up in relation to MA, and the equation becomes…d2 ÷ d= MAd2 = MA ×  d1d2 = 16 × 2 feet = 32 feet           What we discover is that in order to raise the urn 2 feet, our Grecian friend must manipulate 32 feet of rope – which would only make sense if he were lifting something far heavier than a 40 pound urn.           In reality, WI does not equal WO, due to the inevitable presence of friction.   Next time we’ll see how friction affects the mechanical advantage in our compound pulley. 


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