Q:

How is a toilet paper dispenser a wheel and axle?

A:

Quick Answer

A toilet paper dispenser is an example of a wheel and axle. The rod that supports the roll of toilet paper serves as the axle, and the toilet paper roll serves as the wheel. Like all wheel and axle machines, the toilet paper rotates concentrically around the cylindrical holder, which is fastened in place.

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Full Answer

The wheel and axle design of the toilet paper dispenser, as with all wheels, reduces the energy used to retrieve the paper. Since only one part of the toilet paper roll is touching the axis at a given time, there is less resistance when pulling the paper. The difference between most wheel and axle machines and toilet paper dispensers is that the wheel, which in this case is the toilet paper roll, is not fixed to the axle around which it rotates. If the toilet paper roll is crushed and is no longer cylindrical, the resistance increases as the multiple points of contact drag against the supporting rod. This makes this simple machine harder to identify as a wheel and axle. On some commercial models of toilet paper dispensers, the axle piece supporting the toilet paper roll includes spokes, which keep the roll from getting crushed.

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