What Is 6 Degrees of Freedom?

What is 6 Degrees of Freedom, or 6 DoF for short? 6 DoF refers to the freedom of movement of a rigid body in three-dimensional space. But anyone can Google 6 DoF and get that definition. What does it actually mean? Put simply, the degrees of freedom are the ways our bodies and other objects are able to move through the space around us.

Take the space shuttle for example. It can move along three axes that are commonly referred to as the Cartesian, or X, Y, and Z plane, which you might remember from Algebra class. It can move forward or backward on the X axis, Left and Right on the Y axis, and up and down on the Z axis. There are, however, three more movements the shuttle can make. The shuttle can Roll on the X axis. It can pitch forward or backward on the Y axis. And it can rotate, or yaw, in a circle on the Z axis.

Those are the six basic movements, or Degrees of Freedom, that any object can make. Not all objects can move in all six degrees. Fingers, for example, can’t move independently of the hand along the X, Y, or Z axes. But they do have pitch, roll, and yaw abilities.

So, if there are only six degrees of freedom, how can we see robots with twenty or more degrees of freedom? Each moving part or joint on the robot has up to 6 DoF. Returning to fingers, each has three degrees of freedom, as do wrists and shoulders. Our hips, knees, ankles, toes, necks, even ears have their own degrees of freedom.

And in manufacturing, each joint, and the 6 potential degrees of freedom that come with it, represents a value that must be captured and tracked to ensure accuracy. This makes having a laser tracker that can capture all 6 DoF for the probe or sensor measuring a part essential in today’s automated manufacturing environments. To learn more about 6 DoF and its applications in automation, please fill out the contact form below.

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