Mechanical Comprehension Flash Card Set 588259

Cards 10
Topics Coefficient of Friction, Efficiency, Gear Ratio, Hydraulic Pressure, Kinetic Energy, Mechanical Advantage, Normal Force, Power, Structural Loads, Wheel and Axle

Study Guide

Coefficient of Friction

Coefficient of friction (μ) represents how much two materials resist sliding across each other. Smooth surfaces like ice have low coefficients of friction while rough surfaces like concrete have high μ.


The efficiency of a machine describes how much of the power put into the machine is turned into movement or force. A 100% efficient machine would turn all of the input power into output movement or force. However, no machine is 100% efficient due to friction, heat, wear and other imperfections that consume input power without delivering any output.

Gear Ratio

The mechanical advantage (amount of change in speed or torque) of connected gears is proportional to the number of teeth each gear has. Called gear ratio, it's the ratio of the number of teeth on the larger gear to the number of teeth on the smaller gear. For example, a gear with 12 teeth connected to a gear with 9 teeth would have a gear ratio of 4:3.

Hydraulic Pressure

Hydraulics is the transmission of force through the use of liquids. Liquids are especially suited for transferring force in complex machines because they compress very little and can occupy very small spaces. Hydraulic pressure is calculated by dividing force by the area over which it is applied: P = F/A where F is force in pounds, A is area in square inches, and the resulting pressure is in pounds per square inch (psi).

Kinetic Energy

Kinetic energy is the energy of movement and is a function of the mass of an object and its speed: \(KE = {1 \over 2}mv^2\) where m is mass in kilograms, v is speed in meters per second, and KE is in joules. The most impactful quantity to kinetic energy is velocity as an increase in mass increases KE linearly while an increase in speed increases KE exponentially.

Mechanical Advantage

Mechanical advantage is a measure of the force amplification achieved by using a tool, mechanical device or machine system. Such a device utilizes input force and trades off forces against movement to amplify and/or change its direction.

Normal Force

Normal force (FN) represents the force a surface exerts when an object presses against it.


Power is the rate at which work is done, P = w/t, or work per unit time. The watt (W) is the unit for power and is equal to 1 joule (or newton-meter) per second. Horsepower (hp) is another familiar unit of power used primarily for rating internal combustion engines. A 1 hp machine does 550 ft⋅lb of work in 1 second and 1 hp equals 746 watts.

Structural Loads

A concentrated load acts on a relatively small area of a structure, a static uniformly distributed load doesn't create specific stress points or vary with time, a dynamic load varies with time or affects a structure that experiences a high degree of movement, an impact load is sudden and for a relatively short duration and a non-uniformly distributed load creates different stresses at different locations on a structure.

Wheel and Axle

A wheel and axle uses two different diameter wheels mounted to a connecting axle. Force is applied to the larger wheel and large movements of this wheel result in small movements in the smaller wheel. Because a larger movement distance is being translated to a smaller distance, force is increased with a mechanical advantage equal to the ratio of the diameters of the wheels. An example of a wheel and axle is the steering wheel of a car.