This report presents a selection of grids of overlapping circles, where the circles are usually the same size, and the center-to-center distance from a circle to its nearest neighbor is usually constant. Wikipedia has much more to say about this.
The first several sections below talk about circles arranged on a triangular grid; after that, rectangular.
Section T1. In figure T1a is a grid of equal circles arranged triangularly. The center-to-center distance (CCD) from each circle to its nearest neighbor is equal to 1 diameter, as indicated by the number 1.0000 in the lower left corner.
In figure T1b the circles' CCD is now half a diameter (indicated by 0.5000), leading to considerable overlap, and yielding the traditional "flower of life" pattern. Now, 61 circles fit in the same overall space as 37 did before.
figure T1a 19 circles | figure T1b 61 circles |
Alternatively, figure T1b can be constructed as the grid of figure T1a succesively overlaid with the 14-circle configurations in green of figures T1c-d-e. Each of the added circles has its center on the point of tangency between two of the original circles. By the same token, each of the original circles has its center on the point of tangency between two of the added circles. Within any one of the three added groups, the CCD is 1 diameter, as with figure T1a.
figure T1c figure T1a plus 14 circles | figure T1d figure T1a plus 14 circles | figure T1e figure T1a plus 14 circles |
This overlay-with-shift technique is quite valuable in creating interesting patterns. As another example, figures T1f-g show similar overlays, in blue, but the centers of the added circles are now at the midpoints of the voids between the original circles. This is substantively different from the placement of the overlays of figures T1c-d-e. In figure T1h only the edges of the circles in this T1a-f-g combination are drawn, revealing the effect.
figure T1f figure T1a plus 12 circles | figure T1g figure T1a plus 12 circles | figure T1h 43 circles |
Section T2. In figure T2a, the CCD is √(3/4) ≈ 0.8660 diameters, yielding areas where two circles overlap and points where exactly three arcs intersect. Figure T2b spaces the circles at half that distance, resulting in areas where many circles overlap.
figure T2a 19 circles | figure T2b 61 circles |
Figure T2b could also have been produced by overlaying three offset copies of figure T2a onto itself. Employed would be the same procedure as used in producing figure T1b from T1a-c-d-e.
Figures T2c-d-e are analogous to figures T1f-g-h. The result is much like figure T1b, the "flower of life".
figure T2c figure T2a plus 12 circles | figure T2d figure T2a plus 12 circles | figure T2e 43 circles |
Section T3. In figure T3a, the distance between centers is √(1/2) ≈ 0.7071 diameters, yielding areas where two or three circles overlap. There are no points where three arcs intersect. Where two arcs intersect, they are perpendicular.
figure T3a 19 circles |
If figure T1h is redrawn with a CCD of √(3/2) ≈ 1.2247, a grid equivalent to figure T3a is created. This underscores the point that many grids have multiple schemes of construction.
figure T3b 43 circles |
Figure T3c, a configuration equivalent to figure T1b, is here obtained by modifying figure T3a as follows: the centers of the circles are unmoved, but the radius is increased to √2 ≈ 1.4142.
Figure T3d is the overlay of T3a and T3c. Note that each small circle is not quite tangent to the large circles near it. The radius of the small circles could be increased by a small amount to address this, but then the intersection of two of their arcs would no longer be exactly perpendicular.
figure T3c 19 circles | figure T3d 38 circles |
When a figure has circles of more than one radius, the number in its lower left-hand corner is omitted, because there would need to be more than one number, and then a question of which number applies to which circles.
In figure T3e, the diameter of each small circle (in red) is 2 sin (15°) ≈ 0.5176 times the diameter of the large.
figure T3e 38 circles |
This illustrates how circles of more than one radius can sometimes be combined effectively.
Section T4. In figure T4a, the distance between centers is √(1/7) ≈ 0.3780 diameters. Figure T4b spaces the circles at half that distance. Because of the extensive overlapping, the circles are for clarity drawn much larger than in the previous sections.
figure T4a 37 circles |
figure T4b 61 circles |
Section T5. In figure T5a, the distance between centers is √(3/28) ≈ 0.3273 diameters.
figure T5a 37 circles |
Section T6. In figure T6a, the distance between centers is √(3/52) ≈ 0.2402 diameters.
figure T6a 37 circles |
Section R1. In figure R1a is a grid of equal circles arranged rectangularly. The center-to-center distance (CCD) from each circle to its nearest neighbor is equal to 1 diameter.
In figure R1b the circles' CCD is now half a diameter (indicated by 0.5000), leading to considerable overlap. Now 63 circles fit in the same overall space as 20 did before.
figure R1a 20 circles | figure R1b 63 circles |
Alternatively, figure R1b can be constructed as the grid of figure R1a succesively overlaid with the configurations in green and blue of figures R1c-d-e. In R1c-d, each of the added circles has its center on the point of tangency between two original circles. In R1e, the center is placed at the midpoint of the void between four original circles. Within any one of the three added groups, the CCD is 1 diameter, as with figure R1a.
figure R1c figure R1a plus 16 circles | figure R1d figure R1a plus 15 circles | figure R1e figure R1a plus 12 circles |
How figures correspond, roughly:
Section R2. In figure R2a, the CCD is √(1/2) ≈ 0.7071 diameters, yielding areas where two circles overlap and points where two pairs of tangent arcs intersect. Figure R2b spaces the circles at half that distance, resulting in areas where many circles overlap; this figure can be broken down into four component grids in the same manner as R1b into R1a-c-d-e. Figure R2c contains all the circles of R2a, but only about half the circles of R2b.
figure R2a 20 circles | figure R2b 63 circles | figure R2c 32 circles |