This paper tackles the problem of designing state observers for flexible link mechanisms: an investigation is made on the possibility of employing observers making use of suitable piecewise-linear truncated dynamics models. A general approach is proposed, which provides an objective way of synthesizing observers preventing the instability that may arise from using reduced-order linearized models. The approach leads to the identification of the regions of the domain of the state variables where the linear approximations of the nonlinear model can be considered acceptable. To this purpose, first of all, the stability of the equilibrium points of the closed-loop system is assessed by applying the eigenvalue analysis to appropriate piecewise-linear models. Admittedly, the dynamics of such a closed-loop system is affected by the pole perturbation caused by spillover, and by the discrepancies between the linearized models of the plant and the one of the observer. Additionally, when nodal elastic displacements and velocities are not bounded in the infinitesimal neighborhoods of the equilibrium points, the difference between the nonlinear model and the locally-linearized one is expressed in terms of unstructured uncertainty and stability is assessed by H robust analysis. The method is demonstrated by applying it to a closed-chain flexible link mechanism.

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