Types of motion

Mechanical devices all have an input motion, which transforms into force to make an output motion. The four types of motion are:

  • linear
  • rotary
  • reciprocating
  • oscillating

Linear motion moves something in a straight line, eg a train moving down a track:

A straight arrow to demonstrate linear motion sat alongside a photograph of a train.

Rotary motion is where something moves around an axis or pivot point, eg a wheel:

A circular arrow demonstrating rotary motion sat alongside a photograph of wheels on a bike.

Reciprocating motion has a repeated up and down motion or back-and-forth motion, eg a piston or pump:

Two arrows to demonstrate reciprocating motion of an up-and-down and back-and-forth motions sat above a photograph of a water pump

Oscillating motion has a curved backwards and forwards movement that swings on an axis or pivot point, eg a swing or a clock pendulum:

Curved arrow to show the backward-and-forward swinging movement of an oscillating motion alongside a photograph of a pendulum clock.