This page gets you started on calculating volumes of the second main type, volumes of revolution. For volumes of revolution, we use single integrals where an area is rotated about a vertical or horizontal line. The area is defined by equations in the form \(y=f(x)\) or \(x=f(y)\) and we use the washer (disc) method or the cylinder (shell) method.
Volume of Rotation
When calculating the volume of rotation, there are 3 factors that determine how to set up the integral.
1. method (washer-disc or cylinder-shell)
2. axis of rotation
3. function (graph and form of the equations)
Most of the time, the axis of rotation will be either an axis or a straight line that is parallel to one of the axes. However, before we discuss the rotation of an area, we need to know how to describe an area in the plane, which is explained in this first section.
Describing A Region In The xy-Plane
To describe an area in the xy-plane, the first step is to plot the boundaries and determine the actual region that needs to be described. There are several graphing utilities listed on the tools page. Our preference is to use the free program winplot (used to plot these graphs; we used gimp to add labels and other graphics). However, graphing by hand is usually the best and quickest way.
We use the graph to the right to facilitate this discussion. A common way to describe this area is the area bounded by \(f(x)\) (red line), \(g(x)\) (blue line) and \(x=a\) (black line).
[Remember that an equation like \(x=a\) can be interpreted two ways, either the point x whose value is a or the vertical line. You should be able to tell what is meant by the context.]
Okay, so we plotted the boundaries and shaded the area to be described. Now, we need to choose a direction to start, either vertically or horizontally. We will show both ways, starting with vertically, since it is more natural and what you are probably used to seeing. Also, this area is easier to describe vertically than horizontally (you will see why as you read on).
Our first step is to draw a vertical arrow on the graph somewhere within the shaded area, like we have done here. Some books draw an example rectangle with the top on the upper graph and the bottom on the lower graph. That is the same idea as we have done with the arrow.
Now we need to think of this arrow as starting at the left boundary and sweeping across to the right boundary of the area. This sweeping action is important since it will sweep out the area. As we think about this sweeping, we need to think about where the arrow enters and leaves the shaded area. Let's look our example graph to demonstrate. Think about the arrow sweeping left to right. Notice that it always enters the area by crossing \(g(x)\), no matter where we draw it. Similarly, the arrow always exits the area by crossing \(f(x)\), no matter where we draw it. Do you see that?
But wait, how far to the right does it go? We are not given that information. What we need to do is find the x-value where the functions \(f(x)\) and \(g(x)\) intersect. You should be able to do that. We will call that point \((b,f(b))\). Also, we will call the left boundary \(x=a\). So now we have everything we need to describe this area. We give the final results below.
\( g(x) \leq y \leq f(x) \)
arrow leaves through \(f(x)\) and enters through \(g(x)\)
\( a \leq x \leq b \)
arrow sweeps from left (\(x=a\)) to right (\(x=b\))
We can also describe this area horizontally (or using a horizontal arrow). We will assume that we can write the equations of \(f(x)\) and \(g(x)\) in terms of \(y\). ( This is not always possible, in which case we cannot describe the area in this way. ) For the sake of this discussion, we will call the corresponding equations \(f(x) \to F(y)\) and \(g(x) \to G(y)\).
Let's look at the graph. Notice we have drawn a horizontal arrow. Just like we did with the vertical arrow, we need to determine where the arrow enters and leaves the shaded area. In this case, the arrow sweeps from the bottom up. As it sweeps, we can see that it always crosses the vertical line \(x=a\). However, there is something strange going on at the point \((b,f(b))\). Notice that when the arrow is below \(f(b)\), the arrow exits through \(g(x)\) but when the arrow is above \(f(b)\), the arrow exits through \(f(x)\). This is a problem. To overcome this, we need to break the area into two parts at \(f(b)\).
Lower Section - - This section is described by the arrow leaving through \(g(x)\). So the arrow sweeps from \(g(a)\) to \(g(b)\).
Upper Section - - This section is described by the arrow leaving through \(f(x)\). The arrow sweeps from \(f(b)\) to \(f(a)\).
The total area is the combination of these two areas. The results are summarized below.
\( a \leq x \leq G(y) \)
arrow leaves through \(G(y)\) and enters through \(x=a\)
\( g(a) \leq y \leq g(b) \)
arrow sweeps from bottom (\(y=g(a)\)) to top (\(y=g(b)\))
\( a \leq x \leq F(y) \)
arrow leaves through \(F(y)\) and enters through \(x=a\)
\( f(b) \leq y \leq f(a) \)
arrow sweeps from bottom (\(y=f(b)\)) to top (\(y=f(a)\))
Type 1 and Type 2 Regions
Some instructors may describe regions in the plane as either Type 1 or Type 2 (you may see II instead of 2). As you know from the above discussion, some regions are better described vertically or horizontally. Type 1 regions are regions that are better described vertically, while Type 2 regions are better described horizontally. The example above was a Type 1 region.
Here is a quick video clip going into more detail on Type 1 and Type 2 regions.
Okay, so now that you know how to describe an area in the plane, we will use that knowledge to calculate a volume of revolution. The two techniques we discuss are the washer-disc method and the cylinder-shell method. We will use these figures extensively in the discussion of these techniques. Click here to download a one page pdf document of these pictures, with space to write notes. Feel free to copy this page to use while studying, working practice problems, in exams (if allowed by your instructor) and to give to fellow students. If you are an instructor and you think it will help your students, you may make as many copies as you need to use in your classes. For everyone, we ask that you keep the information that you got it from this website at the bottom of the sheet.
Here are some key things that you need to do and know to get started.
1. Draw a rough plot of the area that is being rotated. This is usually best done by hand since you will need to label it.
2. Decide what method you will use, washer-disc or cylinder-shell.
3. On the rough plot from point 1, label the axis of rotation and draw a representative rectangle somewhere in the area.
4. Label R and r or p and h (depending on your method; details on the next two pages).
Once those steps are done, you are ready to set up your integral. We suggest the washer-disc method first, followed by the cylinder-shell method. Once you have successfully completed the practice problems on those two pages, go to the volume practice problems page to hone your skills before your exam.
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