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Cams are mechanical devices used to convert the rotation of a shaft into simple or complex reciprocating linear motion. They can be sliding or rotational pieces in a mechanical linkage.
The cam itself is the small mechanical part that looks like a guitar pick or a tear drop. Devices that utilize cams to transform one type of motion into another are typically composed of three main parts: the cam, the shaft (or rotating wheel), and the lever (also called a cam follower).
Mechanisms that utilize cams are typically designed to transform rotational motion into consistent reciprocating linear motion. Perhaps the most common example of a cam is an internal combustion engine. Car motors operate through a system of cams mounted on a cam shaft that open and close valves to regulate inputs (air and fuel) and outputs (exhaust) within the piston-cylinder assembly.
The characteristics of the linear motion are dictated by the shape of the cam and the cam follower. The profile of the cam can be altered to achieve different characteristics in the overall mechanism. For example:
The geometry of the cam follower is important as well.