I am looking for a way to place points equidistantly along an Archimedes spiral according to arch-length (or an approximation) given the following parameters:

Max Radius, Fixed distance between the points, Number of points

I have been lurking around on this site for a few days and have found a lot of great advice but am struggling with the syntax of some of the proposed responses (not a native coder but I have had small exposure to Python and Matlab).

This example 1 seems to be exactly what I am looking for but I am just struggling with the code, it is not clear to me what variables are used or how the program executes.

Example 2 and example 3 were also helpful but I am definitely missing something when it comes to solving the equation numerically as the resulting spiral does not have equal spacing.

My goal is to use a spreadsheet (MS Excel) to drive a solid modeling program to generate a hole pattern per the parameters above.



3 Answers 3


I've taken a different approach, which, while requiring an extra step is ultimately a better approximation to an equi-spaced curve. In the complex plane, we know that the arc length is given by

$$s=\int_0^{\theta}|\dot z|d\theta$$

where $\dot z$ means differentiation w.r.t. $\theta$ in this case. The for range of $[\theta:\theta+\Delta \theta]$ we can say

$$\Delta s=\int_{\theta}^{\theta+\Delta \theta}|\dot z|d\theta\approx \frac{|\dot z|_n+|\dot z|_{n+1}}{2}\Delta \theta$$

So, the extra step I mentioned consists of building successive $\theta_n$ from $\theta_{n-1}$. For Archimedes spiral $|\dot z|=\sqrt{1+\theta^2}$ and we can show that

$$\Delta \theta_n\approx\frac{\Delta s}{\sqrt{1+\theta_n^2}}$$

The figure below shows a comparison of the uniform $\theta$ (left) and uniform $s$ (right). I kept the derivation very general up to the last minute because it applies to any curve, obviously. Archimedes Spirals.

  • $\begingroup$ This answer will be extremely useful in my work developing algorithms for path planning of a polar robot. $\endgroup$
    – Ravenex
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 15:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Ravenex Thanks, you'll find a more recent, and more general discussion here: math.stackexchange.com/questions/2375940/…. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 15:26
  • $\begingroup$ Same as @Ravenex - in my case for developing a game board. My maths classes are a few years back, is there some pseudo-code for implementing it (I am using Kotlin). $\endgroup$
    – xeruf
    Commented Jul 4 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ @xeruf As you can see, that answer was a long time ago and I cannot find the code. The algorithm relies heavily on complex numbers and I don't know if Kotlin (which is new to me) supports that. However, if it does, then just follow the outline of the equations I have shown. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4 at 21:36

If the polar equation of an Archimedean spiral is given by: $$ \rho = \theta $$ then its parametric equation is $(\theta\cos\theta,\theta\sin\theta)$ and the arc length between $0$ and $\theta_f$ is given by: $$ L= \int_{0}^{\theta_f}\sqrt{1+\theta^2}\,d\theta = \frac{1}{2}\left(\theta_f \sqrt{1+\theta_f^2}+\text{arcsinh}(\theta_f)\right)\approx \theta_f \sqrt{1+\frac{\theta_f^2}{4}}$$ so a good way to place almost-equispaced point on such Archimedean spiral is to take the $N$-th point at: $$ \theta_N = \sqrt{2}\sqrt{-1+\sqrt{1+k^2 N^2}}. $$

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ As a simpler alternative, one may consider $\theta_N=\sqrt{N/N_{\rm points}}\theta_{\rm MAX}$, which is fairly accurate except near to the origin. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 10:02
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Uhm, what is k? $\endgroup$
    – Ghanima
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 16:17

A python implementation to solve for evenly spaced points around an Archimedean spiral. Most of the solutions I came across assume $a=0$ so here is my solution which does not ignore $a$.

Use a solver to iteratively find $\theta_b$ that satisfies:

$\text{arc length} = s = \int_{\theta_a}^{\theta_b} \sqrt{(\frac{dr}{d\theta})^2 + r^2}$ when $r = a+b\theta$

$\therefore s = \int_{\theta_a}^{\theta_b} \sqrt{b^2 + (a+b\theta)^2}$

Using Sage to integrate:
$s = \frac{b^{2} \operatorname{arsinh}\left(\frac{b \theta_{b} + a}{b}\right) + \sqrt{b^{2} \theta_{b}^{2} + 2 \, a b \theta_{b} + a^{2} + b^{2}} {\left(b \theta_{b} + a\right)}}{2 \, b} -\frac{b^{2} \operatorname{arsinh}\left(\frac{b \theta_{a} + a}{b}\right) + \sqrt{b^{2} \theta_{a}^{2} + 2 \, a b \theta_{a} + a^{2} + b^{2}} {\left(b \theta_{a} + a\right)}}{2 \, b} $

Scipy's fsolve searches for roots where func(x) = 0. So subtract $s$ (the requested arc length) from both sides and solve for the $\theta_b$ where $\text{func}(\theta_b) \approx 0$.

import numpy as np
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
from scipy.optimize import fsolve

def arc_len(theta_b: float, theta_a: float, a: float, b: float, arclen: float):
    """calculated arc_len between theta_a and theta_b (where theta_b > theta_a) minus requested arclen

        theta_b (float): upper bound for arc
        theta_a (float): lower bound for arc
        a (float): from the definition of an archimedean spiral r = a + b * theta
        b (float): from the definition of an archimedean spiral r = a + b * theta
        arclen (float): the goal arc length

        float: arclen from theta_a to theta_b minus requested arc length

    Arc length definition:

    using sagemath: https://www.sagemath.org/
    sage: arclen, a, b, t, theta_a, theta_b = var('arclen a b t theta_a theta_b')
    sage: integral((b^2 + (a + b*t)^2)^0.5, t, theta_a,theta_b, assume(a>0,b>0,theta_b-theta_a>0)).simplify()

    .. math::
        -\frac{b^{2} \operatorname{arsinh}\left(\frac{b \theta_{a} + a}{b}\right) + \sqrt{b^{2} \theta_{a}^{2} + 2 \, a b \theta_{a} + a^{2} + b^{2}} {\left(b \theta_{a} + a\right)}}{2 \, b} + \frac{b^{2} \operatorname{arsinh}\left(\frac{b \theta_{b} + a}{b}\right) + \sqrt{b^{2} \theta_{b}^{2} + 2 \, a b \theta_{b} + a^{2} + b^{2}} {\left(b \theta_{b} + a\right)}}{2 \, b}


    return (1 / (2 * b)) * (
            b**2 * np.arcsinh((b * theta_b + a) / b)
            + np.sqrt(b**2 * theta_b**2 + 2 * a * b * theta_b + a**2 + b**2)
            * (b * theta_b + a)
        - (
            b**2 * np.arcsinh((b * theta_a + a) / b)
            + np.sqrt(b**2 * theta_a**2 + 2 * a * b * theta_a + a**2 + b**2)
            * (b * theta_a + a)
    ) - arclen

def main():
    # archimedean spiral definition r = a + b*theta
    a = 3
    b = 1 / (2 * np.pi)
    turns = 3

    # requested arc length
    arclen = 7

    theta = 0
    max_theta = turns * 2 * np.pi

    thetas = []

    while theta < max_theta:
        theta = fsolve(arc_len, [theta], args=(theta, a, b, arclen,))[0]

    # ignore the last calculated point (Outside of the requested range)
    thetas = np.array(thetas[:-1])

    ################ PLOTTING ################
    ### polar ###
    fig = plt.figure(figsize=(6,3))
    ax0 = plt.subplot(121, polar=True, aspect="equal")

    # calculated points
    r_div = a + b * thetas
    ax0.scatter(thetas, r_div, color="#a65628", zorder=2)

    # spiral line
    theta = np.arange(0, turns * 2 * np.pi + 0.001, np.pi / 32)
    r = a + b * theta
    ax0.plot(theta, r, color="#377eb8", zorder=1)

    ### cartesian ###
    ax1 = plt.subplot(122, aspect="equal")

    x = r_div * np.cos(thetas)
    y = r_div * np.sin(thetas)

    # calculated points
    ax1.scatter(x, y, color="#a65628", zorder=2)

    x = r * np.cos(theta)
    y = r * np.sin(theta)

    # spiral line
    ax1.plot(x, y, color="#377eb8", zorder=1)


if __name__ == "__main__":

Plotted in both polar and Cartesian, the brown points here are spaced evenly (with an arc length = 7) around the spiral $r = 3 + \frac{1}{2\pi}\theta$

figure created by the above code

  • $\begingroup$ As it’s currently written, your answer is unclear. Please edit to add additional details that will help others understand how this addresses the question asked. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center. $\endgroup$
    – Community Bot
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 8:10

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