Universal joint

Universal joint

A universal joint, U joint, Cardan joint, Hardy-Spicer joint, or Hooke's joint is a joint in a rigid rod that allows the rod to 'bend' in any direction, and is commonly used in shafts that transmit rotary motion. It consists of a pair of ordinary hinges located close together, but oriented at 90° relative to each other.


The main concept of the universal joint is based on the design of gimbals, which have been in use since antiquity. One anticipation of the universal joint was its use by the Ancient Greeks on ballistae. The first person known to have suggested its use for transmitting motive power was Gerolamo Cardano, an Italian mathematician, in 1545, although it is unclear whether he produced a working model. Christopher Polhem later reinvented it and it was called "Polhem knot". In Europe, the device is often called the Cardan joint or "Cardan shaft". Robert Hooke produced a working universal joint in 1676, giving rise to an alternative name, the "Hooke's joint". Though the first use of the name universal joint is sometimes attributed to American car manufacturer Henry Ford, the term appeared in patent documents as early as 1884 when Charles H. Amidon was awarded United States Letters Patent No. 298,542 for a bit brace.

Equation of motion

The configuration of the universal joint can be specified by three variables:
* gamma_1 The angle of rotation of axle 1
* gamma_2 The angle of rotation of axle 2
* eta The angle of the axles with respect to each other, zero being parallel, or straight through.

These variables are illustrated in the diagram on the right. Also shown are a set of fixed coordinate axes with unit vectors hat{mathbf{x and hat{mathbf{y and the planes of rotation of each axle. These planes of rotation are perpedicular to the axes of rotation and do not move as the axles rotate. The two axles are joined by a gymbal which is not shown. However, axle 1 attaches to the gymbal at the red points on the red plane of rotation in the diagram, and axle 2 attaches at the blue points on the blue plane. Coordinate systems fixed with respect to the rotating axles are defined as having their x-axis unit vectors (hat{mathbf{x_1 and hat{mathbf{x_2) pointing from the origin towards one of the connection points. As shown in the diagram, hat{mathbf{x_1 is at angle gamma_1 with respect to its beginning position along the "x" axis and hat{mathbf{x_2 is at angle gamma_2 with respect to its beginning position along the "y" axis.

hat{mathbf{x_1 is confined to the "red plane" in the diagram and is related to gamma_1 by:

:hat{mathbf{x_1= [cosgamma_1,,,singamma_1,,,0]

hat{mathbf{x_2 is confined to the "blue plane" in the diagram and is the result of the unit vector on the "x" axis hat{x}_1= [1,0,0] being rotated through Euler angles [pi!/2,,,eta,,,gamma_2] :

:hat{mathbf{x_2 = [-cosetasingamma_2,,,cosgamma_2,,,sinetasingamma_2]

A constraint on the hat{mathbf{x_1 and hat{mathbf{x_2 vectors is that since they are fixed in the gymbal, they must remain at right angles to each other:

:hat{mathbf{x_1 cdot hat{mathbf{x_2 = 0

Thus the equation of motion relating the two angular positions is given by:


The angles gamma_1 and gamma_2 in a rotating joint will be functions of time. Differentiating the equation of motion with respect to time and using the equation of motion itself to eliminate a variable yields the relationship between the angular velocities omega_1=dgamma_1/dt and omega_2=dgamma_2/dt:


As shown in the plots, the angular velocities are not linearly related, but rather are periodic with a period twice that of the rotating shafts. The angular velocity equation can again be differentiated to get the relation between the angular accelerations a_1 and a_2:

:a_2 = frac{a_1 coseta }{1-sin^2eta,cos^2gamma_1}-frac{omega_1^2cosetasin^2etasin 2gamma_1}{(1-sin^2etacos^2gamma_1)^2}

Double cardan

A configuration known as a double cardan joint drive shaft partially overcomes the problem of jerky rotation. In this configuration, two U-joints are utilised where the second U-joint is phased in relation to the first U-joint in order to cancel the changing angular velocity, and an intermediate shaft connects the two U-joints. In this configuration, the assembly will result in an almost constant velocity, provided both the driving and the driven shaft are parallel and the two universal joints are correctly aligned with each other - usually eta,le 45°. This assembly is commonly employed in rear wheel drive vehicles.

Even when the driving and driven shafts are parallel, if eta,> 0°, oscillating moments are applied to the three shafts as they rotate. These tend to bend them in a direction perpendicular to the common plane of the shafts. This applies forces to the support bearings and can cause "launch shudder" in rear wheel drive vehicles. [ [http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/6345680/description.html Electronically-controlled adjustable height bearing support bracket - US Patent 6345680 ] ] The intermediate shaft will also maintain a sinusoidal angular velocity, which contributes to vibration and stresses.

In practice, it is often impossible to maintain a strict geometric relationship between the driving and driven shafts, and the intermediate shaft, giving rise to greater vibrations and mechanical stresses. The stresses can be reduced by the use of a smaller and lighter intermediate shaft, ensuring the driven and driving shafts share as close to the same angle in relation to the intermediate shaft, and reducing the angle of the joints.

Joints have been developed utilizing a floating intermediate shaft and centering elements to maintain equal angles between the driven and driving shafts, and the intermediate shaft. This overcomes the problem of differential angles between the input and output shafts.

A recent innovation, the Thompson coupling is a further development of the double cardan joint, which does not rely on friction or sliding elements to maintain a strict geometric relationship within the joint, and which is capable of transmitting torque under axial and radial loads with low frictional losses.

ee also

* Cardan shaft
* Constant-velocity joint
* Elastic coupling
* Gear coupling
* Rag joint


* [http://www.nuigalway.ie/mechbio/downloads/FinThMachines3.doc "Theory of Machines 3"] from National University of Ireland

External links

* " [http://demonstrations.wolfram.com/UniversalJoint/] " by Sándor Kabai, The Wolfram Demonstrations Project.
* " [http://autorepair.about.com/cs/doityourself/a/aa102602a.htm DIY: Replacing Universal Joints] ", About.com.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Universal joint — Universal U ni*ver sal, a. [L. universalis: cf. F. universel, OF. also universal. See {Universe}.] 1. Of or pertaining to the universe; extending to, including, or affecting, the whole number, quantity, or space; unlimited; general; all reaching; …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Universal joint — Joint Joint (joint), n. [F. joint, fr. joindre, p. p. joint. See {Join}.] [1913 Webster] 1. The place or part where two things or parts are joined or united; the union of two or more smooth or even surfaces admitting of a close fitting or… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • universal joint — ► NOUN ▪ a joint which can transmit rotary power by a shaft at any selected angle …   English terms dictionary

  • universal joint — or universal coupling n. a flexible mechanical connection, esp. one used to transmit rotary motion from one shaft to another not in line with it, as in the drive shaft of an automobile …   English World dictionary

  • universal joint — n a part in a machine, at the point where two other parts join together, that can turn in all directions …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • universal joint — (UJ) A flexible double pivoted joint that allows driving power to be carried through two shafts that are at an angle to each other. It consists of two Y shaped yokes and a cross shaped member called the spider. The four arms of the spider are… …   Dictionary of automotive terms

  • universal joint — Kardano lankstas statusas T sritis fizika atitikmenys: angl. Cardan joint; Hooke’s coupling; universal joint vok. Kardangelenk, n; Universalgelenk, n; Wellengelenk, n rus. кардан, m; карданный шарнир, m; универсальный шарнир, m pranc. cardan, m;… …   Fizikos terminų žodynas

  • universal joint — noun coupling that connects two rotating shafts allowing freedom of movement in all directions in motor vehicles a universal joint allows the driveshaft to move up and down as the vehicle passes over bumps • Syn: ↑universal • Hypernyms: ↑coupling …   Useful english dictionary

  • universal joint — noun A coupling that allows different parts of a machine not in line with each other some freedom of movement at the same time as transmitting rotary motion. Syn: Cardan joint, cardan joint, Hardy Spicer joint, Hookes joint, U joint, universal… …   Wiktionary

  • universal joint — /junəvɜsəl ˈdʒɔɪnt/ (say yoohnuhversuhl joynt) noun Machinery a joint allowing free movement in all directions within certain limits. Also, universal coupling …   Australian English dictionary

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