Static Friction

When an attempt is made to slide a heavy object along a surface, the object must first be broken loose or started. Once in motion, it slides more easily. The “breaking loose" force is, of course, proportional to the weight of the body. The force necessary to start the body moving slowly is designated “F," and “F'" is the normal force pressing the body against the surface (usually its weight). Since the nature of the surfaces rubbing against each other is important, they must be considered. The nature of the surfaces is indicated by the coefficient of starting friction which is designated by the letter “k." This coefficient can be established for various materials and is often published in tabular form. Thus, when the load (weight of the object) is known, starting friction can be calculated by using the following formula:

F = kF'

For example, if the coefficient of sliding friction of a smooth iron block on a smooth, horizontal surface is 0.3, the force required to start a 10 lb block would be 3 lb; a 40-lb block, 12 lb.

Starting friction for objects equipped with wheels and roller bearings is much smaller than that for sliding objects. Nevertheless, a locomotive would have difficulty getting a long train of cars in motion all at one time. Therefore, the couples between the cars are purposely made to have a few inches of play. When starting the train, the engineer backs the engine until all the cars are pushed together. Then, with a quick start forward the first car is set in motion. This technique is employed to overcome the static friction of each wheel (as well as the inertia of each car). It would be impossible for the engine to start all of the cars at the same instant, for static friction, which is the resistance of being set in motion, would be greater than the force exerted by the engine. Once the cars are in motion, however, static friction is greatly reduced and a smaller force is required to keep the train in motion than was required to start it.

Sliding Friction

Sliding friction is the resistance to motion offered by an object sliding over a surface. It pertains to friction produced after the object has been set in motion, and is always less than starting friction. The amount of sliding resistance is dependent on the nature of the surface of the object, the surface over which it slides, and the normal force between the object and the surface. This resistive force may be computed by using the following formula.

F = mN

In the formula above, “F" is the resistive force due to friction expressed in pounds; “N" is the force exerted on or by the object perpendicular (normal) to the surface over which it slides; and “m" (mu) is the coefficient of sliding friction. On a horizontal surface, N is equal to the weight of the object in pounds. The area of the sliding object exposed to the sliding surface has no effect on the results. A block of wood, for example, will not slide any easier on one of the broad sides than it will on a narrow side, (assuming all sides have the same smoothness). Therefore, area does not enter into the equation above.

Rolling Friction

Resistance to motion is greatly reduced if an object is mounted on wheels or rollers. The force of friction for objects mounted on wheels or rollers is called rolling friction. This force may be computed by the same equation used in computing sliding friction, but the values of “m" will be much smaller. For example, the value of “m" for rubber tires on concrete or macadam is about 0.02. The value of “m" for roller bearings is very small, usually ranging from 0.001 to 0.003 and is often disregarded.

Example: An aircraft with a gross weight of 79,600 lb is towed over a concrete ramp. What force must be exerted by the towing vehicle to keep the airplane rolling after once set in motion?

F = mN
= 0.02 mu × 79,600 lb
= 1,592 lb

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