Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mechanisms and Linkages

As I have mentioned over and over, I am a fascinated by motion and movement. I have posted a few kinetic art videos of which I am a huge fan, and there will be more. A few of my favorite classes in college were Kinematics, which is “the branch of classical mechanics that describes the motion of objects without consideration of the causes leading to the motion,” Dynamics, which is “the mathematical analysis of the motion of bodies as a result of impressed forces,” and the course that applies the two in real world applications, Kinematics and Dynamics of Machinery.

Much of the applied course was devoted to linkages and mechanisms. There are several classes of linkages and probably hundreds of named linkage arrangements. I own several books which verbally and mathematically describe many of the linkages. I get a kick out of looking at a machine and finding a linkage or mechanism that I recognize.

But I have a feeling that many of the linkages and mechanisms will be replaced by more mechanically simple servo motors and linear actuators. If you look at old machinery, you will find all kinds of cool movements generated by cams, levers, mechanisms and linkages, but with robotics and complex mathematics, some of those devices are obsolete. But they will never go away, and even more complicated linkages are being developed which I really like.

You can find tons of videos of many of linkages on and similar sites. One of my favorites is of course Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest.

The Strandbeest has been duplicated in several mediums including Lego. I’m not going to link to any of those videos out of respect for the artist, but some of those are quite impressive as well.  If you are not familiar with Jansen and the Strandbeest, I highly recommend visiting the link.

I have found several really interesting pages devoted to sharing linkage and mechanism designs and graphics. Here are a few;

RoyMech. This is a detailed page including all kinds of engineering resources, but my favorite is Mechanisms.

KMODDL. “KMODDL is a collection of mechanical models and related resources for teaching the principles of kinematics--the geometry of pure motion. The core of KMODDL is the Reuleaux Collection of Mechanisms and Machines, an important collection of 19th-century machine elements held by Cornell's Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.”

Brock Institute for Advanced Studies. This page shows animated graphics for several linkages.

Kanagawa Prefecture’s Linkage mechanism simulator is a downloadable linkage simulator.


  1. Thanks for a great list of links!

  2. The KMODDL is my favorite. It is almost limitless with the amount of information it contains. You can download full books, lots of pictures and tons of information.