1R5. Analytical Elements of Mechanisms. - DB Marghitu and MJ Crocker (Dept of Mech Eng, Auburn Univ, Auburn AL). Cambridge UP, Cambridge, UK. 2001. 276 pp. ISBN 0-521-62383-9. $59.95.

Reviewed by AF Bertolini (Dept of Aerospace Eng, RMIT Univ, GPO Box 2476V, Melbourne, Vic, Australia).

This is not a book for the faint-hearted non-mathematically oriented among us. Marghitu and Crocker have produced a monograph that explores deeply the mathematics underpinning the theory of mechanisms. From one perspective, it is a tour-de-force of mathematical derivation for the properties and motions of mechanisms. From the educational perspective, it lacks the structure and design to make itself a worthwhile educational textbook.

The book is aimed at the senior and graduate student level. Its purpose was so “readers can become familiar with the solution of kinematics and dynamics problems of mechanisms, methods of solution, and their software implementation. Readers can also study and compare the available methods of analysis from a unified viewpoint.” This book does fulfill on this intention, although perhaps not as well as the authors had hoped. The unifying theory of the contour equation method links most of the book together and does indicate a more simple and cohesive approach compared to that of deriving the position vectors with respect to time to obtain the velocities and accelerations. The derivations shown are clear and do allow the reader to follow the process step by step so as to allow familiarity.

The book begins with an introductory chapter that essentially introduces the basic concepts and definitions of the terms used in the mechanisms area. The reader is then introduced in subsequent chapters to the development and derivations of position, velocity, and acceleration equations. As a counterpoint to this classical approach, the authors develop the contour equation method as a general algebraic approach. This is followed by chapters covering the use of the contour equation method for dynamic force analysis, mechanisms with gears, open kinematic chains, and kinematic chains with continuous flexible links. The book completes with an excellent collection of problems for the reader to solve, and a selection of programs for Mathematica in the Appendices.

While the structure of the contents is clear and logical, this reviewer was disappointed with the lack of introductions and conclusions. This made it difficult to gain a perspective of why one would perform all the derivations and an understanding of the links between each chapter. The diagrams were excellent, although the reader sometimes has to search several pages to find out what was being referred to in the text. The index was adequate with only one small error. The bibliography provided covers the area well, however, the referencing used was poor. The authors should use the numbering they gave the references in the bibliography throughout the book.

It is an expectation of this reviewer that published textbooks actually attempt to enable the reader to learn easily what is offered. While this book does provide the reader with all the necessary knowledge to familiarize oneself with the theory underlying mechanisms, it was a struggle. This reviewer suggests that Marghitu and Crocker’s textbook can be strengthened in a number of ways. If the authors examine the latest edition of the Engineering Mechanics textbook by Hibbeler (2001) that they referenced, they would discover how Hibbeler integrates real life examples into his explanations and sample problems, thus making it easier for a reader to grasp the reasoning for the mathematical derivations and the topics covered. The provision of a glossary would not go astray as would a diskette containing all the Mathematica programs shown. This reviewer would like to issue a warning to all authors and publishers. There is an ever-increasing body of research on engineering education that is showing the necessity of providing textbooks, learning materials, and activities that truly enable the reader to learn. The era of delivering solely knowledge-based textbooks has past.

Despite the concerns that this reviewer has expressed, Analytical Elements of Mechanisms does provide an excellent reference book for graduate students and researchers in the area of mechanisms.