A wheel is a circular component that is intended to rotate on an axial bearing. The wheel is one of the main components of the wheel and axle which is one of the six simple machines. Wheels, in conjunction with axles, allow heavy objects to be moved easily facilitating movement or transportation while supporting a load, or performing labor in machines. Wheels are also used for other purposes, such as a ship's wheel, steering wheel, potter's wheel and flywheel.
Common examples are found in transport applications. A wheel greatly reduces friction by facilitating motion by rolling together with the use of axles. In order for wheels to rotate, a moment needs to be applied to the wheel about its axis, either by way of gravity, or by the application of another external force or torque.
A simple machine is a mechanical device that changes the direction or magnitude of a force. In general, a simple machine can be defined as one of the simplest mechanisms that provide mechanical advantage (also called leverage).
Usually the term refers to the six classical simple machines which were defined by Renaissance scientists:
A simple machine is an elementary device that has a specific movement (often called a mechanism), which can be combined with other devices and movements to form a machine. Thus simple machines are considered to be the "building blocks" of more complicated machines. This analytical view of machines as decomposable into simple machines first arose in the Renaissance as a neoclassical amplification of ancient Greek texts on technology, and is still a central part of engineering in today's age of applied science. For example, wheels, levers, and pulleys are all used in the mechanism of a bicycle. Between the simple machines and complex assemblies, several intermediate classes can be defined, which may be termed "compound machines" or "machine elements". The mechanical advantage of a compound machine is simply the product of the mechanical advantages of the simple machines of which it is composed.
Various authors have compiled lists of simple machines and machine elements, sometimes lumping them together under a single term such as "simple machines", "basic machines", "compound machines", or "machine elements"; the use of the term "simple machines" in this broader sense is a departure from the neoclassical sense of the six essential simple machines, which is why many authors prefer to avoid its use, preferring the other terms (such as "machine element"). In all cases, the theme of an analytical and synthetic connection from simple to compound to complex is at work. A page from a 1728 text by Ephraim Chambers (in the figure to the right) shows more machine elements. By the late 1800s, Franz Reuleaux identified hundreds of machine elements (calling them "simple machines"). Models of these devices can be found at Cornell University's KMODDL website.