Main article: 4-stroke engine
Diagram showing the operation of a 4-stroke SI engine. Labels:
1 ? Induction
2 ? Compression
3 ? Power
4 ? Exhaust
The top dead center (TDC) of a piston is the position where it is nearest to the valves; bottom dead center (BDC) is the opposite position where it is furthest from them. A stroke is the movement of a piston from TDC to BDC or vice versa together with the associated process. While an engine is in operation the crankshaft rotates continuously at a nearly constant speed. In a 4-stroke ICE each piston experiences 2 strokes per crankshaft revolution in the following order. Starting the description at TDC, these are:78
Common cylinder configurations include the straight or inline configuration, the more compact V configuration, and the wider but smoother flat or boxer configuration. Aircraft engines can also adopt a radial configuration, which allows more effective cooling. More unusual configurations such as the H, U, X, and W have also been used.
Multiple cylinder engines have their valve train and crankshaft configured so that pistons are at different parts of their cycle. It is desirable to have the piston's cycles uniformly spaced (this is called even firing) especially in forced induction engines; this reduces torque pulsations21 and makes inline engines with more than 3 cylinders statically balanced in its primary forces. However, some engine configurations require odd firing to achieve better balance than what is possible with even firing. For instance, a 4-stroke I2 engine has better balance when the angle between the crankpins is 180° because the pistons move in opposite directions and inertial forces partially cancel, but this gives an odd firing pattern where one cylinder fires 180° of crankshaft rotation after the other, then no cylinder fires for 540°. With an even firing pattern the pistons would move in unison and the associated forces would add.
Multiple crankshaft configurations do not necessarily need a cylinder head at all because they can instead have a piston at each end of the cylinder called an opposed piston design. Because fuel inlets and outlets are positioned at opposed ends of the cylinder, one can achieve uniflow scavenging, which, as in the four-stroke engine is efficient over a wide range of engine speeds. Thermal efficiency is improved because of a lack of cylinder heads. This design was used in the Junkers Jumo 205 diesel aircraft engine, using two crankshafts at either end of a single bank of cylinders, and most remarkably in the Napier Deltic diesel engines. These used three crankshafts to serve three banks of double-ended cylinders arranged in an equilateral triangle with the crankshafts at the corners. It was also used in single-bank locomotive engines, and is still used in marine propulsion engines and marine auxiliary generators.
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