Universal Joint

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: September 25th, 2023

A universal joint, also known as a U-joint, is a type of mechanical coupling that allows two shafts to be connected and transmit torque while still being able to rotate freely and move in different directions. This is useful in situations where the relative orientation of the two shafts may change, such as in the drive shaft of a vehicle that constantly changes its angle as it moves over uneven terrain. Here, we have discussed in detail about universal joints.

Universal Joint PDF [GATE Notes]

Universal joints consist of two yokes, each attached to one of the shafts, and a cross-shaped connecting piece called a cross-pin that links the two yokes together. The cross-pin is mounted in bearings in the yokes, allowing it to rotate and swivel, allowing the shafts to move and rotate relative to each other. This allows the universal joint to accommodate changes in the relative orientation of the two shafts while transmitting torque and allowing them to rotate.

Table of content

What is Universal Joint?

A universal joint, also known as a U-joint, is a type of mechanical coupling that allows two shafts to be connected and transmit torque while still being able to rotate freely and move in different directions. This is achieved by using two yokes, each attached to one of the shafts, and a cross-shaped connecting piece called a cross-pin that links the two yokes together. The cross-pin is mounted in bearings in the yokes, allowing it to rotate and swivel, allowing the shafts to move and rotate relative to each other.

Universal joints are commonly used in various applications, such as drive shafts for vehicles, machinery for industrial processes, and other mechanical systems where the flexible and versatile coupling is needed. The universal joint diagram is given below.

Working Principle of Universal Joint

The working principle of a universal joint is based on using two yokes, each attached to one of the shafts to be coupled, and a cross-shaped connecting piece called a cross-pin that links the two yokes together. The cross-pin is mounted in bearings in the yokes, allowing it to rotate and swivel, allowing the shafts to move and rotate relative to each other.

When torque is applied to one of the shafts, it is transmitted through the universal joint to the other shaft, causing it to rotate. As the relative orientation of the two shafts changes, the cross-pin can rotate and swivel in the bearings in the yokes, allowing the universal joint to accommodate these changes while transmitting torque and allowing the shafts to rotate. This allows the universal joint to provide a flexible and versatile coupling between the two shafts, allowing them to move and rotate freely in different directions while transmitting torque.

Types of Universal Joints

There are several different types of universal joints, which vary in their design and application. Some common types of universal joints include

• Single Cardan joint: This is the most common type of universal joint, and it consists of a single cross-shaped connecting piece that links the two yokes together. This allows the joint to accommodate changes in the relative orientation of the two shafts while transmitting torque and allowing them to rotate.
• Double Cardan joint: This type of universal joint consists of two cross-shaped connecting pieces arranged in series, which link the two yokes together. This allows the joint to accommodate even larger changes in the relative orientation of the two shafts, and it is often used in applications where the shafts may be subjected to more extreme movements.
• Constant velocity joint: This type of universal joint is designed to maintain a constant rotational velocity between the two shafts, even as their relative orientation changes. This is achieved by using a series of small balls or rollers that are arranged specially, allowing the joint to accommodate changes in orientation while maintaining a constant velocity.
• Hooke’s joint: This type of universal joint uses a series of curved arms, or levers, to link the two yokes together. This allows the joint to accommodate changes in orientation while transmitting torque and allowing the shafts to rotate.
• Cross and bearing joint: This type of universal joint uses a cross-shaped connecting piece and a series of bearings to link the two yokes together. This allows the joint to accommodate changes in orientation while transmitting torque and allowing the shafts to rotate.

Applications of Universal Joints

Universal joints are commonly used in various applications due to their ability to accommodate changes in the relative orientation of the two shafts that are coupled together while transmitting torque and allowing them to rotate. Some common applications of universal joints include

• In drive shafts for vehicles, such as cars, trucks, and tractors, the shaft must be able to accommodate changes in orientation as the vehicle moves over uneven terrain.
• Machinery for industrial processes, such as conveyor belts, mixers, and other equipment, may require shafts that can move and rotate in different directions.
• In power transmission systems, such as those used in wind turbines, the shafts may be subject to large and varying forces, requiring a flexible and versatile coupling.
• In robotics, universal joints are often used to connect the different parts of a robot’s body, allowing it to move and rotate freely.
• In other mechanical systems where flexible and versatile coupling is needed, such as in cranes and other lifting equipment, marine propulsion systems, and various other applications.

Universal joints have several advantages over other mechanical couplings, making them useful in various applications. Some of the main advantages of universal joints include

• Flexibility: Universal joints can accommodate changes in the relative orientation of the two coupled shafts, allowing them to move and rotate freely in different directions. This makes them ideal for applications where the shafts may be subject to large and varying forces or need to move and rotate in different directions.
• Versatility: Universal joints can transmit torque and allow the shafts to rotate, making them useful for a wide range of applications where power transmission or rotation is needed.
• Compactness: Universal joints are relatively small and compact, which makes them easy to incorporate into a wide range of mechanical systems.
• Durability: Universal joints are typically designed to be robust and durable, with high-quality bearings and other components that can withstand large forces and long-term use.
• Cost-effectiveness: Universal joints are generally less expensive than other types of couplings, which makes them an economical choice for many applications.

While universal joints have many advantages, they also have disadvantages. Some of the main disadvantages of universal joints include

• Limited range of motion: Universal joints can only accommodate a limited range of changes in the relative orientation of the two coupled shafts. This means they may not be suitable for applications where the shafts may be subject to large or extreme movements.
• Loss of power: Due to how universal joints are designed, some power is lost as the torque is transmitted through the joint. This means that the shafts may not rotate as efficiently as they would if coupled using a different type of coupling.
• Noise and vibration: Universal joints can sometimes produce noise and vibration as the shafts rotate, which may be undesirable in some applications.
• Maintenance: Universal joints require regular maintenance and lubrication to function properly and to maintain their durability and performance. This can add to the overall cost and complexity of using universal joints in some applications.

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