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A review of linkage mechanisms in animal joints and related bioinspired designs

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Abstract: This paper presents a review of biological mechanical linkage mechanisms. One purpose is to identify the range of kinematic functions that they are able to perform. A second purpose is to review progress in bioinspired designs. Ten different linkage mechanisms are presented. They are chosen because they cover a wide range of functionality and because they have potential for bioinspired design. Linkage mechanisms enable animal joints to perform highly sophisticated and optimised motions. A key function of animal linkage mechanisms is the optimisation of actuator location and mechanical advantage. This is crucially important for animals where space is highly constrained. Many of the design features used by engineers in linkage mechanisms are seen in nature, such as short coupler links, extended bars, elastic energy storage and latch mechanisms. However, animal joints contain some features rarely seen in engineering such as integrated cam and linkage mechanisms, nonplanar four-bar mechanisms, resonant hinges and highly redundant actuators. The extreme performance of animal joints together with the unusual design features makes them an important area of investigation for bioinspired designs. Whilst there has been significant progress in bioinspiration, there is the potential for more, especially in robotics where compactness is a key design driver.



Topical Review, four-bar mechanisms, kinematic amplification, mechanical advantage, multi-functioning, linkage mechanisms

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Bioinspiration & Biomimetics

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IOP Publishing
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/C535286/1)