Principal vectors and equivalent mass descriptions for the equations of motion of planar four-bar mechanisms

J. P. Meijaard*, V. van der Wijk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
167 Downloads (Pure)


The use of principal points and principal vectors in the formulation of the equations of motion of a general 4R planar four-bar linkage is shown with two kinds of methods, one that opens kinematic loops and one that does not. The opened kinematic loop approach analyses the moving links as a system with a tree connectivity, introducing reaction forces for closing the loops. Compared with the conventional Newton–Euler method, this approach results in fewer equations and constraint forces, whereas the mass matrix entries remain meaningful, but there is a stronger coupling between the equations. Two equivalent mass formulations for the closed kinematic loop approach are presented, which need not open the loop and introduce loop constraint forces in the equations of motion. With the method of complex joint masses, the mass of the links closing the loops is represented by real and virtual equivalent masses, defining the principal points. The principle of virtual work with the inclusion of inertia terms is used to derive the equations of motion. As an example the dynamic balance conditions of the four-bar linkage are derived. With the method of the equivalent mass matrix it is shown how a constant mass matrix can be used to describe the dynamics of binary links with an arbitrary mass distribution. A four-bar linkage could be modelled with only three truss elements instead of the conventional result with three or more beam elements, which gives a significant reduction of the computational complexity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-282
JournalMultibody System Dynamics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Complex joint mass
  • Equivalent mass
  • Linkage
  • Principal point
  • Principal vector
  • Truss element
  • Virtual work


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