Until recently, vibration effects have generally been neglected in the design of high-speed machines and mechanisms. This has been primarily due to the complexity of the mathematical analysis of mechanisms with elastic links. With the advent of high-speed computers and structural dynamics techniques, such as finite element analysis, this is no longer regarded as such a formidable task. To date, with few exceptions, the analysis of elastic mechanism systems have been limited to a single type of mechanism (i.e., a four-bar or slider-crank) modeled with a small number of simple finite elements (usually beam elements). This paper develops the generalized equations of motion for elastic mechanism systems by utilizing finite element theory. The derivation and final form of the equations of motion provide the capability to model a general two- or three-dimensional complex elastic mechanism, to include the nonlinear rigid-body and elastic motion coupling terms in a general representation, and to allow any finite element type to be utilized in the model. A discussion of a solution method, applications, as well as an experimental investigation of an elastic four-bar mechanism will be presented in subsequent publications.

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