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Screw axis

placement, the screw axis becomes the displacement pole,

and the instantaneous screw axis becomes the velocity
pole, or instantaneous center of rotation, also called an
instant center. The term centro is also used for a velocity
pole, and the locus of these points for a planar movement
is called a centrode.[4]

1 History
The proof that a spatial displacement can be decomposed
into a rotation and slide around and along a line in space
is attributed to Michel Chasles in 1830.[5] Recently the
work of Gulio Mozzi has been identied as presenting a
similar result in 1763.[6][7]

2 Screw axis symmetry

A helix on a screw axis

A screw axis (helical axis or twist axis) is a line

that is simultaneously the axis of rotation and the line
along which translation of a body occurs. Chasles theorem shows that each Euclidean displacement in threedimensional space has a screw axis, and the displacement
can be decomposed into a rotation about and a slide along The BoerdijkCoxeter helix is an example of a screw axis symmetry that is nonperiodic.
this screw axis.[1][2]
Plcker coordinates are used to locate a screw axis in
space, and consist of a pair of three-dimensional vectors.
The rst vector identies the direction of the axis, and
the second locates its position. The special case when the
rst vector is zero is interpreted as a pure translation in
the direction of the second vector. A screw axis is associated with each pair of vectors in the algebra of screws,
also known as screw theory.[3]

A screw displacement (also screw operation or rotary

translation) is the composition of a rotation by an angle
about an axis (called the screw axis) with a translation
by a distance d along this axis. A positive rotation direction usually means one that corresponds to the translation direction by the right-hand rule. Except for =
180, we have to distinguish a screw displacement from
its mirror image. Unlike for rotations, a righthand and
The spatial movement of a body can be represented by a lefthand screw operation generate dierent groups.
continuous set of displacements. Because each of these The combination of a rotation about an axis and a transdisplacements has a screw axis, the movement has an as- lation in a perpendicular direction is a rotation about a
sociated ruled surface known as a screw surface. This sur- parallel axis. However, a screw operation with a nonzero
face is not the same as the axode, which is traced by the translation vector along the axis cannot be reduced like
instantaneous screw axes of the movement of a body. The that. Thus the eect of a rotation combined with any
instantaneous screw axis, or 'instantaneous helical axis translation is a screw operation in the general sense, with
(IHA), is the axis of the helicoidal eld generated by the as special cases a pure translation, a pure rotation and the
velocities of every point in a moving body.
identity. Together these are all the direct isometries in
When a spatial displacement specializes to a planar dis- 3D.
1

that consist of a rotation three dimensional A followed by

a translation by the vector d.
A three dimensional rotation A has a unique axis that denes a line L. Let the unit vector along this line be S so
that the translation vector d can be resolved into a sum
of two vectors, one parallel and one perpendicular to the
axis L, that is,

d = dL + d ,

dL = (d S)S,

d = d dL .

31 screw axis in crystal structure of tellurium

In crystallography, a screw axis symmetry is combination of rotation about an axis and a translation parallel
to that axis leaves a crystal unchanged. If = 360/n
for some positive integer n, then screw axis symmetry
implies translational symmetry with a translation vector
which is n times that of the screw displacement.

D(x) = (A(x) + d ) + dL .
Now, the orientation preserving rigid motion D'* = A(x)
+ d transforms all the points of R3 so that they remain in
planes perpendicular to L. For a rigid motion of this type
there is a unique point c in the plane P perpendicular to
L through 0, such that

Applicable for space groups is a rotation by 360/n about

an axis, combined with a translation along the axis by a
multiple of the distance of the translational symmetry,
divided by n. This multiple is indicated by a subscript.
So, 63 is a rotation of 60 combined with a translation of
1/2 of the lattice vector, implying that there is also 3-fold
21 , 31 , 41 , 42 , 61 , 62 , and 63 , and the enantiomorphous
32 , 43 , 64 , and 65 .[8]

D (C) = A(C) + d = C.

A non-discrete screw axis isometry group contains all

combinations of a rotation about some axis and a proportional translation along the axis (in riing, the constant
of proportionality is called the twist rate); in general this
is combined with k-fold rotational isometries about the
same axis (k 1); the set of images of a point under the
isometries is a k-fold helix; in addition there may be a
2-fold rotation about a perpendicularly intersecting axis,
and hence a k-fold helix of such axes.

A rigid motion D'* with a xed point must be a rotation

of around the axis L through the point c. Therefore, the
rigid motion

3
3.1

The point C can be calculated as

C = [I A]1 d ,
because d does not have a component in the direction
of the axis of A.

D(x) = D (x) + dL ,
consists of a rotation about the line L followed by a translation by the vector dL in the direction of the line L .
Conclusion: every rigid motion of R3 is the result of a
rotation of R3 about a line L followed by a translation in
the direction of the line. The combination of a rotation
about a line and translation along the line is called a screw
motion.

Geometric argument
3.2 Computing a point on the screw axis

Let D: R3 R3 dene an orientation preserving rigid motion of R3 . The set of these transformations is a sub- A point C on the screw axis satises the equation:[9]
group of Euclidean motions known as the special Euclidean group SE(3). These rigid motions are dened by
transformations of x in R3 given by
D (C) = A(C) + d = C.
D(x) = A(x) + d.

Solve this equation for C using Cayleys formula for a rotation matrix

[A] = [I B]1 [I + B],

S = cos + S sin , S2 = 1,

where [B] is the skew-symmetric matrix constructed from that denes a rotation by 2 around an axis S.
Rodrigues vector
In the proper Euclidean group E+ (3) a rotation may be
conjugated with a translation to move it to a parallel rotation axis. Such a conjugation, using quaternion homo
graphies, produces the appropriate screw axis to express
b = tan S,
2
the given spatial displacement as a screw displacement,
in accord with Chasles theorem.
such that

[B]y = b y.

5 Mechanics

The motion of a rigid body may be the combination of

rotation about an axis (the screw axis) and a translation
along that axis. This screw move is characterized by the
1
velocity
vector for the translation and the angular velocC = [IB] [I+B]C+d , [IB]C = [I+B]C+[IB]d
,
ity vector in the same or opposite direction. If these two
vectors are constant and along one of the principal axes
which becomes
of the body, no external forces are needed for this motion (moving and spinning). As an example, if gravity
and drag are ignored, this is the motion of a bullet red
2[B]C = [I B]d .
from a ried gun.
This equation can be solved for C on the screw axis P(t)
to obtain,
Use this form of the rotation A to obtain

5.1 Biomechanics

This parameter is often used in biomechanics, when describing the motion of joints of the body. For any period
of time, joint motion can be seen as the movement of a
The screw axis P(t)=C+tS of this spatial displacement has single point on one articulating surface with respect to the
adjacent surface (usually distal with respect to proximal).
the Plcker coordinates S=(S, CS).[9]
The total translation and rotations along the path of motion can be dened as the time integrals of the instantaneous translation and rotation velocities at the IHA for a
4 Dual quaternion
given reference time.[10]
C=

b d b (b d)
.
2b b

The screw axis appears in the dual quaternion formulation

of a spatial displacement D = ([A],d). The dual quaternion is constructed from the dual vector S=(S, V) dening
the screw axis and the dual angle (, d) where is the rotation about and d the slide along this axis, which denes
the displacement D to obtain,

S = cos + sin S.
2
2
A spatial displacement of points q represented as a vector
quaternion can be dened using quaternions as the mapping

In any single plane, the path formed by the locations of

the moving instantaneous axis of rotation (IAR) is known
as the 'centroid', and is used in the description of joint
motion.

Helical symmetry
Eulers rotation theorem rotations without translation
Screw theory
Line group

q 7 SqS 1 + d
where d is translation vector quaternion and S is a unit
quaternion, also called a versor, given by,

Space group
Corkscrew (roller coaster element)
Glide reection

References

[1] Bottema, O, and B. Roth, Theoretical Kinematics, Dover

Publications (September 1990), link to Google books
[2] Hunt, K. H., Kinematic Geometry of Mechanism, Oxford
University Press, 1990
[3] R.S. Ball, A Treatise on the Theory of Screws, Hodges,
Dublin, 1876, Appendix 1, University Press, Cambridge,
1900, p. 510
[4] Homer D. Eckhardt, Kinematic Design of Machines and
Mechanisms, McGraw-Hill (1998) p. 63 ISBN 0-07018953-6 on-line at Google books
[5] M. Chasles, Note sur les Proprietes Generales du Systeme
de Deux Corps Semblables entr'eux, Bullettin de Sciences
Mathematiques, Astronomiques Physiques et Chimiques,
Baron de Ferussac, Paris, 1830, pp. 321326
[6] G. Mozzi, Discorso matematico sopra il rotamento momentaneo dei corpi, Stamperia di Donato Campo, Napoli,
1763
[7] M. Ceccarelli, Screw axis dened by Giulio Mozzi in 1763
and early studies on helicoidal motion, Mechanism and
Machine Theory 35 (2000) 761-770
[8] Walter Borchardt-Ott (1995). Crystallography. SpringerVerlag. ISBN 3-540-59478-7.
[9] J. M. McCarthy and G. S. Soh, Geometric Design of
Linkages, 2nd Edition, Springer 2010
[10] Woltring HJ, de Lange A, Kauer JMG, Huiskes R. 1987
Instantaneous helical axes estimation via natural, crossvalidated splines. In: Bergmann G, Klbel R, Rohlmann
A (Editors). Biomechanics: Basic and Applied Research.
Springer, pp 121-128. full text

REFERENCES

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Images

File:Coxeter_helix.png Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2c/Coxeter_helix.png License: Public domain Contributors: Own work Original artist: Tomruen
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