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Cam and follower are a higher pair. A familiar application of a cam mechanism is in the opening and closing of valves in an automotive engine. The cam rotates with the camshaft, usually at constant angular velocity, while the follower moves up and down as controlled by the cam surface. A cam is sometimes made in the form of a translating cam.
Although many requisite motions in machinery are accomplished by use of pin-jointed mechanisms, such as four-bar linkages, a cam mechanism frequently is the only practical solution to the problem of converting the available input, usually rotating or reciprocating, to a desired output, which may be an exceedingly complex motion.
Cams are used in many machines. They are numerous in automatic packaging, shoemaking, typesetting machines, and the like, but are often found as well in machine tools, reciprocating engines, and compressors. They are occasionally used in rotating machinery.