The operating speed and endpoint positional accuracy of existing industrial manipulators are limited by the inertial and stiffness characteristics of the articulating members of the robot’s mechanical linkage. This limitation may be overcome by developing members having high structural stiffness and strength with low mass, and this has been recognized for some time. These characteristics can be obtained by fabricating the moving members of manipulators in fiber-reinforced composite materials. In order to establish a basis for the dynamic analysis of robots fabricated in viscoelastic composites, a variational theorem is developed herein. A preliminary comparative study is then undertaken for manipulators manufactured in a graphite-epoxy composite material and also steel in order to demonstrate some of the advantages to be accrued from this proposed new design philosophy such as smaller deflections at the end-effector.

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