The path synthesis problem for mechanical linkages still presents problems for engineers, although it has been examined for more than two centuries. This research approached the design problem as one of creating a characteristic test function to compare a synthesized output path with a desired output path, and finding a set of linkages that reduce the corresponding error. Since the solution space of this approach is very large with typically a generous number of local minima, it may be possible to find several linkages that each produce a small error. This research investigated the ability to use a modified genetic algorithm to search for a global minima and simultaneously identify several linkage designs that are “almost” as good as the global optimum. Having alternative solutions will allow designers to choose a mechanism that best fits criteria other than path error. The results from using the method on a subclass of linkage problems demonstrate that solutions can be found that “fit” better than those found in the literature. The results also show that a diverse family of acceptable designs can be obtained and that this family includes both “well known” designs and heretofore unknown solutions.

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