A machine (or mechanical device) is a mechanical structure that uses power to apply forces and control movement to perform an intended action. Machines can be driven by animals and people, by natural forces such as wind and water, and by chemical, thermal, or electrical power, and include a system of mechanisms that shape the actuator input to achieve a specific application of output forces and movement. They can also include computers and sensors that monitor performance and plan movement, often called mechanical systems.
Modern machines are complex systems that consist of structural elements, mechanisms and control components and include interfaces for convenient use. Examples include a wide range of vehicles, such as automobiles, boats and airplanes, appliances in the home and office, including computers, building air handling and water handling systems, as well as farm machinery, machine tools and factory automation systems and robots.
The earliest practical water-powered machines, the water wheel and watermill, first appeared in the Persian Empire, in what are now Iraq and Iran, by the early 4th century BC. The earliest practical wind-powered machines, the windmill and wind pump, first appeared in the Muslim world during the Islamic Golden Age, in what are now Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, by the 9th century AD. The earliest practical steam-powered machine was a steam jack driven by a steam turbine, described in 1551 by Taqi al-Din Muhammad ibn Ma'ruf in Ottoman Egypt.
The Industrial Revolution was a period from 1750 to 1850 where changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times. It began in the United Kingdom, then subsequently spread throughout Western Europe, North America, Japan, and eventually the rest of the world.
Wedge (hand axe): Perhaps the first example of a device designed to manage power is the hand axe, also called biface and Olorgesailie. A hand axe is made by chipping stone, generally flint, to form a bifacial edge, or wedge. A wedge is a simple machine that transforms lateral force and movement of the tool into a transverse splitting force and movement of the workpiece. The available power is limited by the effort of the person using the tool, but because power is the product of force and movement, the wedge amplifies the force by reducing the movement. This amplification, or mechanical advantage is the ratio of the input speed to output speed. For a wedge this is given by 1/tan, where is the tip angle. The faces of a wedge are modeled as straight lines to form a sliding or prismatic joint.
Power flow through a machine provides a way to understand the performance of devices ranging from levers and gear trains to automobiles and robotic systems. The German mechanician Franz Reuleaux wrote, "a machine is a combination of resistant bodies so arranged that by their means the mechanical forces of nature can be compelled to do work accompanied by certain determinate motion." Notice that forces and motion combine to define power.
A spherical mechanism is a mechanical system in which the bodies move in a way that the trajectories of points in the system lie on concentric spheres. The rotational axes of hinged joints that connect the bodies in the system pass through the center of these circle.
The dynamic analysis of machines begins with a rigid-body model to determine reactions at the bearings, at which point the elasticity effects are included. The rigid-body dynamics studies the movement of systems of interconnected bodies under the action of external forces. The assumption that the bodies are rigid, which means that they do not deform under the action of applied forces, simplifies the analysis by reducing the parameters that describe the configuration of the system to the translation and rotation of reference frames attached to each body.