How do Mecanum wheels work?

Energy & Sustainability Robotics

We get the pleasure of working with some amazing artists/illustrators here at MAKE. One of them is James Provost. James did the illos for the “Lunchbox Laser” and “Marble Adder” projects in Volume 20, and the “CNC For Under $800” piece in Volume 21. He also did the wonderful illustrated version of the Maker’s Bill of Rights.

Here’s a video James did to show how Mechanum wheels work. On his blog (which is a fun read, BTW), he describes his inspiration:

While [MythBusters] one day, I noticed something weird about their forklift — it moved sideways. It didn’t just turn on a dime, but actually moved perpendicular to the direction of the wheels. Upon closer inspection, they looked more like worm gears than wheels. The answer was just a Google away: The MythBusters’ forklift is equipped with Mecanum Wheels, also known as Omni Wheels or Ilon Wheels. These wheels work by rotating independently, depending on the desired direction of travel.

I had an idea that this might make for an interesting motion graphic (above), since still images really don’t do this technology justice. So I tried it out (what’s the worst that can happen?)

Nice work, James!

James Provost Illustration

28 thoughts on “How do Mecanum wheels work?

  1. japroach says:

    Doesn’t really show how they work, more like shows what they are.

    1. says:

      Don’t know about you, but 0:17 – 0:24 seemed to work pretty well for me. I mean, they’re wheels, they turn. The trick is the 45* rollers allow side-to-side movement, and that section of the video shows what combinations of wheel rotations will result in movement of the forklift in certain directions.

      1. japroach says:

        sorry, you are right.

        There was too much focus on the top left image of the wheel, which is not required for the explanation.

  2. Travis Deyle says:

    The commercial forklifts using mecanum wheels (sometimes also called Swedish wheels) are called AirTrax:

    These wheels are frequently used on robots due to their non-holonomic nature (ie. they can move sideways):

  3. Daniela Stoll says:

    Really nice work, James.

  4. Daniela Stoll says:

    Really nice work, James.

  5. Muhammad AAng Wildan says:

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    1. David says:

       bos, gimana cara bikin link di tulisan butik online?

  6. Egypt Breaking News says:

    Nice work James
    really wish if i could hire u to work on my site :)

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    Baju Grosir

  8. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think that you have even read the post before commenting. Shame on you!

  9. cody says:

    good post james

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn