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This article is about assemblies of links designed to manage forces and movement. For other uses, see Linkage.

A mechanical linkage is an assembly of bodies connected to manage forces and movement. The movement of a body, or link, is studied using geometry so the link is considered to be rigid. The connections between links are modeled as providing ideal movement, pure rotation or sliding for example, and are called joints. A linkage modeled as a network of rigid links and ideal joints is called a kinematic chain.

Linkages may be constructed from open chains, closed chains, or a combination of open and closed chains. Each link in a chain is connected by a joint to one or more other links. Thus, a kinematic chain can be modeled as a graph in which the links are paths and the joints are vertices, which is called a linkage graph.

The movement of an ideal joint is generally associated with a subgroup of the group of Euclidean displacements. The number of parameters in the subgroup is called the degrees of freedom (DOF) of the joint. Mechanical linkages are usually designed to transform a given input force and movement into a desired output force and movement. The ratio of the output force to the input force is known as the mechanical advantage of the linkage, while the ratio of the input speed to the output speed is known as the speed ratio. The speed ratio and mechanical advantage are defined so they yield the same number in an ideal linkage.

A kinematic chain, in which one link is fixed or stationary, is called a mechanism, and a linkage designed to be stationary is called a structure.


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