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Capstan as a Mechanical Amplifier

[+] Author Affiliations
Michael M. Starkey, Robert L. Williams, II

Ohio University, Athens, OH

Paper No. DETC2011-48262, pp. 1309-1316; 8 pages
  • ASME 2011 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 6: 35th Mechanisms and Robotics Conference, Parts A and B
  • Washington, DC, USA, August 28–31, 2011
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division and Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5483-9
  • Copyright © 2011 by ASME


A capstan is simply a cylinder with a flexible body such as a string or cable wrapped around it. Capstans are generally used to assist in the lifting or pulling of heavy objects in the form of winches. By controlling the input tension on the cord, a capstan can dynamically amplify the input. It is hypothesized that a single capstan with multiple cords wrapped about it can act as numerous mechanical amplifiers. The validity of the classic capstan equation was investigated in this study. It was found that, where the classic equation is able to provide a rough estimation of the dynamics of a capstan system, a more complex equation was needed to fully define the behavior. A more complex equation was developed and compared to the experimental data. It was found to accurately describe the dynamics of the system and explanations were offered to describe the contributing forces.

Copyright © 2011 by ASME



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