Types of Pulleys

Written By Rachel Novak


Types of Pulleys

A pulley is a type of simple machine. As we know, there are three types of simple machines: the pulley, the lever and the inclined plane. All three types of simple machines have been identified as such because of their simplistic nature that help accomplish work.

Among the pulley simple machines, there are three different types of pulleys:

  • Fixed pulleys are a very common pulley. These pulleys are secured to a single spot. The name fixed is because the pulley itself remains stationary, attached to something like a wall or ceiling, while the cord or rope passes through it. Because the pulley is fixed, the force that is applied on the side you are pulling, will be the same amount of force that is exerted on the opposite side. So why use a fixed pulley if it’s capabilities are only to exert the same amount of force you, the user, applies? Well, the fixed pulley is very necessary because it’s changes the direction of the object; which can be very helpful.
  • Movable Pulleys are yet another type of pulley. It differs from the fixed pulley because the actual pulley machine will move with the load. Because the pulley moves with the load, a moveable pulley will multiple force which the user applies to the machine in doing work on an object. These pulleys are often attached to the actual object, in contrast to the fixed pulley which is attached to something stationary. Unlike the fixed pulley, the movable pulley does not change the direction of the object, however it is helpful because of its multiplication of force on the opposite side of the user. This is ideal for heavier loads because you have to exert less force but that force gets multiplied.
  • Compound Pulley Systems are a combination of both movable and fixed pulleys. This type of pulley system has the greatest success in moving your heaviest loads. It has the greatest multiplication of force. These compound systems can not only change the direction of the load, but also because of it’s use of compound pulleys, required less force to be exerted by the user.


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