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3 Kinematics of

Reciprocating Engines
A. Introduction
Figure 1 depicts a reciprocating internal combustion engine mechanism applied widely in
automobile cars and motorcycles. The mechanism converts the reciprocating translational of
the piston into crankshaft’s rotational motion through a link called connecting rod. The
crankshaft rotates in a counter clockwise direction creating an angle 𝜃𝜃 with respect to positive
𝑥𝑥 axis. Due to the rotation, the angle 𝜃𝜃 changes with time 𝑡𝑡 resulting in an angular velocity, 𝜃𝜃̇
and, in most cases, angular acceleration, 𝜃𝜃̈ present.

Figure 1 Reciprocating internal combustion engine mechanism

In this module, we would like to observe the motion of the piston as the crankshaft rotates at a
constant speed. The piston motion could be expressed in terms of position, velocity, and
acceleration. These three items are denoted by 𝑦𝑦, 𝑦𝑦̇ , and 𝑦𝑦̈ , , and are to be investigated
analytically as well as numerically. In addition, we are also going to investigate how the
crankshaft length affects the piston motion. This study is absolutely required in reciprocating

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engine design so that the shaking force produced could be minimized. The shaking force is
discussed briefly in this module and will be discussed in depth in the next module.
B. The Piston Position Equation
In this session, the equation of piston position as a function of 𝜃𝜃 and engine dimensions will
be derived. The engine dimensions are the crank length ℓ1 and the length of the connecting rod
ℓ2 . Let 𝛽𝛽 denotes the angle between the crankshaft and the connecting rod, while α is the angle
between the connecting rod and the 𝑦𝑦 axis. Looking at Figure 1, the angles 𝛼𝛼, 𝛽𝛽, and 𝜃𝜃 may be
related based on the sine rule as follows:
𝑦𝑦 ℓ ℓ2
= 1 = ,
sin 𝛽𝛽 sin 𝛼𝛼 sin(900 − 𝜃𝜃)

𝑦𝑦 ℓ ℓ2
= 1 = . (1)
sin 𝛽𝛽 sin 𝛼𝛼 cos(𝜃𝜃)
We may also express the relationship knowing that a triangle has a total angle of 1800 . This
mathematical relationship is expressed as

𝛼𝛼 + 𝛽𝛽 + (900 − 𝜃𝜃) = 1800 . (2)


From Equation 1, the angle 𝛼𝛼 may be expressed as

𝛼𝛼 = arcsin(𝑟𝑟 cos 𝜃𝜃) , (3)


where 𝑟𝑟 = ℓ1 /ℓ2 . While the angle 𝛽𝛽 may be restated as

𝛽𝛽 = 𝜃𝜃 + 900 − 𝛼𝛼. (4)


Again, we use Equation 1 to obtain

sin 𝛽𝛽
𝑦𝑦 = ℓ2 , (5)
cos 𝜃𝜃
and substituting the variable 𝛽𝛽 as expressed in Equation 4 into Equation 5 results in

cos(𝛼𝛼 − 𝜃𝜃)
𝑦𝑦(𝜃𝜃) = ℓ2 . (6)
cos 𝜃𝜃
Equation 6 may be simplified as
cos 𝛼𝛼 cos 𝜃𝜃 + sin 𝛼𝛼 sin 𝜃𝜃
𝑦𝑦(𝜃𝜃) = ℓ2 ,
cos 𝜃𝜃
𝑦𝑦(𝜃𝜃) = ℓ2 (cos 𝛼𝛼 + sin 𝛼𝛼 tan 𝜃𝜃 ) ,

𝑦𝑦(𝜃𝜃) = ℓ2 [cos{arcsin(𝑟𝑟 cos 𝜃𝜃 )} + 𝑟𝑟 cos 𝜃𝜃 tan 𝜃𝜃 ] .

𝑦𝑦(𝜃𝜃) = ℓ2 [cos{arcsin(𝑟𝑟 cos 𝜃𝜃 )} + 𝑟𝑟 sin 𝜃𝜃 ] . (7)


Equation 7 may then be simplified as

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𝑦𝑦(𝜃𝜃) = ℓ2 ��1 − 𝑟𝑟2 cos 2 𝜃𝜃 + 𝑟𝑟 sin 𝜃𝜃� , (8)

by considering the trigonometric identity depicted in Figure 2. NOTE: Please understand how
to derive Equation 8. You will be asked to derive it during the pretest.

Figure 2 Trigonometric identity required to simplify Equation 7


Actually, Equation 8 may be considered as an equation representing the reciprocating piston
position. Since the piston motion oscillates between the Bottom Dead-Center and Top Dead-
Center, the equation may be expressed in another coordinate system as

𝑦𝑦1 (𝜃𝜃) = 𝑦𝑦(𝜃𝜃) − ℎ, (9)


where 𝑦𝑦1 (𝜃𝜃) is the piston position in the new coordinate system, while ℎ is a constant. The
value of 𝑦𝑦1 (𝜃𝜃) is set as zero when the crankshaft angle 𝜃𝜃 = 0, so that the piston oscillates around
𝑦𝑦1 = 0. This zero setting implies:

𝑦𝑦1 (0) = 𝑦𝑦(0) − ℎ,

0 = �ℓ22 − ℓ21 − ℎ,

ℎ = �ℓ22 − ℓ21 . (10)

Substituting the variable ℎ in Equation 10 into Equation 9 gives us

𝑦𝑦1 (𝜃𝜃) = 𝑦𝑦(𝜃𝜃) − �ℓ22 − ℓ21 , (11)

then substituting the function of 𝑦𝑦 (𝜃𝜃) written in Equation 8 yields

𝑦𝑦1 (𝜃𝜃) = ℓ2 ��1 − 𝑟𝑟2 cos 2 𝜃𝜃 + 𝑟𝑟 sin 𝜃𝜃� − �ℓ22 − ℓ21 . (12)

In this module, we would like to plot the piston position in 𝑦𝑦1 (𝜃𝜃) coordinate system instead of
𝑦𝑦(𝜃𝜃) coordinate system.

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C. Numerical Approximation
A numerical approximation could be used to estimate both piston velocity and acceleration
from measured piston position. This approximation comes from the limit definition of the
velocity as the following

𝑦𝑦(𝑡𝑡 + ℎ) − 𝑦𝑦(𝑡𝑡)
𝑣𝑣(𝑡𝑡) = lim . (13)
ℎ→0 ℎ
The limit definition is then modified to make it applicable in any digital computer by assuming
that:
1. The current piston position 𝑦𝑦(𝑡𝑡) is obtained by the 𝑖𝑖 𝑡𝑡ℎ measurement and termed as 𝑦𝑦(𝑖𝑖 ),
2. The next measurement, which is (𝑖𝑖 + 1)𝑡𝑡ℎ measurement, is performed Δ𝑡𝑡 second after
𝑖𝑖 𝑡𝑡ℎ measurement. The result of this measurement is 𝑦𝑦(𝑡𝑡 + Δ𝑡𝑡) and termed as 𝑦𝑦(𝑖𝑖 + 1),
3. The term Δ𝑡𝑡 is set as the step size which has a certain constant value, thus there is no
limit used anymore in the numerical equation called difference equation,
4. The current velocity 𝑣𝑣(𝑡𝑡) is then termed as 𝑣𝑣(𝑖𝑖 ).
The above assumptions lead us to the following difference equation

𝑦𝑦(𝑖𝑖 + 1) − 𝑦𝑦(𝑖𝑖 )
𝑣𝑣(𝑖𝑖 ) = . (14)
Δ𝑡𝑡
The difference equation will be used to approximate the velocity from the measured position

The numerical approximation explained above could be also be used to estimate the
acceleration. The acceleration of the piston may be estimated using the following equation

𝑣𝑣(𝑖𝑖 + 1) − 𝑣𝑣(𝑖𝑖 )
𝑎𝑎(𝑖𝑖 ) = . (15)
Δ𝑡𝑡
D. The Shaking Forces
The shaking forces are net unbalance force of accelerating masses. In a reciprocating engine,
the shaking forces are due to accelerations of the piston, the connecting rod and the crank.
However, usually the shaking forces of the crank and the connecting rod are balanced. Hence,
we consider only the shaking force of the piston. However, the other shaking forces will be
analyzed in depth in the next module. The shaking force produced by piston is calculated using
the following equation

𝐹𝐹(𝜃𝜃) = −𝑚𝑚𝑚𝑚(𝜃𝜃) , (16)


where 𝐹𝐹 represents the shaking force and 𝑚𝑚 represents the piston mass. Meanwhile, the minus
sign in the equation indicates that the force works in the opposite direction of the acceleration.

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E. Student Worksheet
PROBLEM#1 The Piston Velocity Equation
The piston velocity, denoted by 𝑣𝑣, is the first derivative of the position with respect to time.
The velocity could be obtained from either 𝑦𝑦(𝜃𝜃) or 𝑦𝑦1 (𝜃𝜃) because 𝑦𝑦(𝜃𝜃) and 𝑦𝑦1 (𝜃𝜃) differed
only by a constant ℎ. Thus, the velocity may be calculated as

𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑(𝜃𝜃)
𝑣𝑣 = . (17)
𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑
Using the symbolic manipulation in MatLab, proof that

𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑 (𝜃𝜃) 𝑟𝑟2 sin 2𝜃𝜃


𝑣𝑣(𝜃𝜃) = 𝜔𝜔 = 𝜔𝜔ℓ2 � + 𝑟𝑟 cos 𝜃𝜃� . (18)
𝑑𝑑𝑑𝑑 2√1 − 𝑟𝑟2 cos 2 𝜃𝜃
PROGRAM#1
clear all
close all
clc
syms t w l2 r
theta=w*t;
y=l2*(sqrt(1-(r^2)*(cos(theta))^2)+r*sin(theta));
v=diff(y,t);
disp(v)
What is the result from MatLab ?
𝑣𝑣(𝜃𝜃) =

PROBLEM#2 The Piston Acceleration Equation


The acceleration is the first derivative of the velocity or the second derivative of the position,
with respect to time. The acceleration, which is denoted by 𝑎𝑎, may be determined as follows

4𝑟𝑟 2 cos 2𝜃𝜃 (1 − 𝑟𝑟 2 cos 2 𝜃𝜃 ) − 𝑟𝑟 4 sin2 2𝜃𝜃


𝑎𝑎 (𝜃𝜃) = 𝜔𝜔2 ℓ2 � 3 − 𝑟𝑟 sin 𝜃𝜃 � . (19)
2 2
4 (1 − 𝑟𝑟 cos 𝜃𝜃 ) 2
Utilizing the symbolic manipulation, proof Eq. 19! Write your own program on the following
space!
Ans :

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What is the result from MatLab ?
𝑎𝑎(𝜃𝜃) =

PROBLEM#3. An engine has the dimensions of ℓ1 = 51 mm and ℓ2 = 155 mm. Substitute


these values into Eq. 8, and then use Matlab to draw the graph 𝑦𝑦(𝜃𝜃) versus 𝜃𝜃 in the following
figure.

Now, draw the graph 𝑦𝑦1 (𝜃𝜃) versus 𝜃𝜃 in the following figure.

80
60

40
y [mm]

20

0
1

-20

-40

-60

-80
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
θ [rad]

80
60

40
y [mm]

20

0
1

-20

-40

-60

-80
0 100 200 300 400 500
θ [deg]

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PROBLEM#4. The engine may run at any speed. Here, we would like to know how the speed
variation affects the piston motion. Assume that we have two identical engines, i.e. Engine A
and Engine B operating at different speeds. Engine A is in idle condition which has a speed of
1000 RPM, while Engine B is operated at 1500 RPM. To compare their piston motions, plot
the graph 𝑦𝑦1 (𝑡𝑡) versus 𝑡𝑡 in the following figure. Do not forget to include legends to distinguis h
graphs of piston motion of both engines. Before you draw the graphs, fill Box A available after
the figure with your conversion of each engine speed into 𝜔𝜔 (in rad/sec).

80

60

40

20
y1 [mm]

-20

-40

-60

-80
0 0.01 0.02 0.03 0.04 0.05 0.06 0.07 0.08 0.09 0.1
t [sec]

BOX A – Angular velocity, 𝜔𝜔 of each engine

Engine A: Engine B:
___________________________________ ___________________________________
___________________________________ ___________________________________
___________________________________ ___________________________________
___________________________________ ___________________________________
___________________________________ ___________________________________
___________________________________ ___________________________________
___________________________________ ___________________________________
___________________________________ ___________________________________
___________________________________ ___________________________________

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PROBLEM#5. Considering Engine A and Engine B in PROBLEM#4, again plot the position
of the engine’s pistons together against 𝜃𝜃 in the following figure.

80

60

40

20
y1 [mm]

-20

-40

-60

-80
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
θ [rad]

Based on the result you have obtained in PROBLEM#4 and PROBLEM#5, state your
conclusion here:
___________________________________________________________________________
___________________________________________________________________________
___________________________________________________________________________

PROBLEM#6. Now, we are going to investigate how the compression ratio affects the piston
motion. The compression ratio depends on the crank length. The longer the crank, the higher
the compression ratio of the mixture of air and fuel. Let us consider Engine C with dimens io ns
of ℓ1 = 40 mm and ℓ2 = 155 mm, and also consider Engine D with higher compression ratio
having dimension of ℓ1 = 70 mm and ℓ2 = 155 mm. They work at the same speed of 1000
RPM. Draw the graph 𝑦𝑦1 (𝜃𝜃) versus 𝜃𝜃 in the following figure.

100

80

60

40

20
y1 [mm]

-20

-40

-60

-80

-100
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20
θ [rad]

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Based on your work at PROBLEM#6, can you guess which engine is a gasoline engine and
which engine is a Diesel engine? Why?
Gasoline engine: _____________________________________________________________
Diesel Engine: _______________________________________________________________
The reason: _________________________________________________________________
___________________________________________________________________________

PROBLEM#7. Based on Equations 18 and 19, draw 𝑣𝑣(𝜃𝜃) and 𝑎𝑎(𝜃𝜃) against 𝜃𝜃 for both gasoline
engine and Diesel engine you have identified in PROBLEM#6.

10
v [m/sec]

-5

-10
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20
θ [rad]
2
a [10 3 m/sec2]

-1

-2
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20
θ [rad]

PROBLEM#8. In this session, we will try to evaluate the velocity and the acceleration by
taking the numerical differentiation of measured piston position signal. Let the engine has
dimensions of ℓ1 = 51 mm and ℓ2 = 155 mm and run at 1000 RPM. Plot the theoretical signal
𝑦𝑦1 (𝜃𝜃) against 𝜃𝜃 in the following figure according to Equation 9. Set the matrix of 𝜃𝜃 with
resolution (step size) of 0.2094 rad. In addition, also draw the simulation signal 𝑦𝑦1,𝑚𝑚 (𝜃𝜃)
representing measured signal in the same figure. The simulation signal 𝑦𝑦1,𝑚𝑚 (𝜃𝜃) is defined as
the summation of the theoretical signal 𝑦𝑦(𝜃𝜃) and the noise signal 𝑛𝑛(𝜃𝜃). Generate the noise
signal using Matlab command:
n = 5*rand(size(theta)); Do not forget to distinguish both graphs.

9
100

y [mm] 50

0
1

-50

-100
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20
θ [rad]
Does the simulation signal look like the theoretical signal?
___________________________________________________________________________
After you draw the graph of 𝑦𝑦1 (𝜃𝜃) versus 𝜃𝜃, draw the theoretical velocity 𝑣𝑣(𝜃𝜃) versus 𝜃𝜃 in the
following figure. As a comparison, draw the numerical velocity 𝑣𝑣𝑚𝑚 (𝜃𝜃) obtained from 𝑦𝑦1,𝑚𝑚 (𝜃𝜃)
using the definition expressed in Equation 14. Hint: calculate Δ𝑡𝑡 based on 𝜃𝜃 resolution.

10

5
v [m/sec]

-5

-10
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20
θ [rad]
Does the numerical velocity signal similar to the theoretical velocity signal? Why?
___________________________________________________________________________
___________________________________________________________________________
___________________________________________________________________________
___________________________________________________________________________
___________________________________________________________________________
Now, draw the theoretical acceleration 𝑎𝑎(𝜃𝜃) versus 𝜃𝜃 in the following figure. Compare the
theoretical signal with the numerical acceleration 𝑎𝑎𝑚𝑚 (𝜃𝜃) obtained from 𝑣𝑣𝑚𝑚 (𝜃𝜃) using the
definition expressed in Equation 15. Hint: calculate Δ𝑡𝑡 based on 𝜃𝜃 resolution.

10
5

3
a [10 3 m/sec2]
2

-1

-2

-3

-4

-5
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20
θ [rad]

Estimate the maximum percentage of acceleration error happens to the numerical signal. Based
on the result of your calculation, what are your recommendations?
___________________________________________________________________________
___________________________________________________________________________
___________________________________________________________________________
___________________________________________________________________________

PROBLEM#9. In this session, we would like to find the shaking force produced by the pistons
in Engines E and F. Both engines have specifications as summarized in Table 1. They are
operated at the same speed of 1000 RPM. Draw the shaking force produced by the pistons in
one graph.
Table 1 Engines specifications

Dimensions Engine E Engine F

ℓ1 44 mm 55 mm

ℓ2 136 mm 155 mm

piston mass 324 gram 632 gram

0.6

0.4

0.2
F [kN]

-0.2

-0.4

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20
θ [rad]

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