Will Mecanum wheels replace the conventional wheels?

Punsara Mahawela
2 min readNov 5, 2020

Have you ever wondered, for centuries why we use wheels which are made of rubber tires for moving objects? Don’t you think, the time has come to go for alternatives, or already there are any alternatives in the society.

In 1972, an engineer called Bengt Erland Ilon got the patent for his invention, the mecanum wheels.

What are Mecanum wheels?

It is a tireless wheel made up with rubber rollers around the surface of the rim, as in above picture.

Some of the popular steering mechanisms are as following,

  1. Differential drive : uses two independent motorized wheels
  2. Ackerman steering : the mechanism used in cars
  3. Skid steering

In addition to the skid steering, by using mecanum wheels we also can move a robot or a vehicle to right or left direction without changing direction where it is headed if we use mecanum wheels.

Working principle

With the alignment of the rollers we can define two main directions for a mecanum wheel,

  1. Directions where forces may generate
  2. Directions which the wheels can have displacements freely

If we consider about the first type, depending on the direction that the wheel rotates (clockwise or anticlockwise), generated forces may differ from 180 digress. (indicated by red arrows)In order to achieve multi-directional movements, four of wheels must be connected to a chassis in a way such that each of the wheels must be controlled separately. Most common way to achieve this is to have four motors.

By changing the direction of rotation, we can accomplish different kind of movements as below.

Still research is undergoing with the intention of finding best materials for these type of wheels in order to increase the durability of the rollers.

Applications

Industrial robots specified for transport goods in automated warehouses and robots which use to transport heavy machinery inside workstations are widely use these types of wheels.

Still, these are not used for vehicles due to the durability issues and the driving complexity.

Check out following videos to get an idea about real world applications.

Clever Autonomy for Mobile Robots

KUKA omniMove at Siemens plant Krefeld

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Punsara Mahawela

Electronic Engineering Undergraduate | University of Moratuwa | Robotics Enthusiast