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Continuous Newton-Euler Algorithms for

Geometrically Exact Flexible Beams
Georges Le Vey
IRCCyN-UMR CNRS 6597 and Ecole des Mines de Nantes
4, rue A. Kastler, 44307 NANTES Cedex 1 - FRANCE
Email: levey@emn.fr
Abstract—A Newton-Euler formalism is derived for geometri-
cally exact Cosserat beam theory in a purely deductive manner,
thanks to an analogy with optimal control theory
1
. The method
relies upon a joint use of Gauss least constraint principle, Appell’s
equations and optimal control theory, that was used in a previous
work for the classical case of discrete Newton-Euler backward
and forward recursions for multibody systems. Motivating ap-
plications are hyperedundant manipulators or biomimetic robots
such as eel-robots, undergoing large displacements.
I. INTRODUCTION
The Newton-Euler approach to obtain dynamical equations
for complex mechanical systems has been for a long time
widely used for modelling in multibody systems and robotics
(see [17] and references therein and classical references on
the subject [3], [14], [24]), as an efficient alternative to
Lagrange approach. This approach does not make explicit the
dynamical equations but, instead, relies upon considering the
relative positions, velocities and accelerations of each body
with respect to its neighbours, in a recursive manner, leading to
low complexity algorithms. Two questions are then addressed :
either the joint accelerations are known and one searches
for the corresponding joint torques (backward algorithm, for
control objectives) or the converse (forward algorithm, for
simulation purposes). These two questions are addressed here
in the case of a Cosserat continuous beam theory, on the
illustrative example of a Kirchoff, inextensible model, albeit
not limiting the generality of the method itself. The obtained
results as well as the purely deductive way of getting them
are new, to the best knowledge of the author.
Flexible multibody systems have been the object of exten-
sive research, in modelling, identification and control, during
the past decades. Thus the renowned efficiency of recursive
Newton-Euler algorithms for rigid multibody systems and
robotics manipulators has motivated their extension when
flexibilities should not be neglected ( [4]–[6], [10], [16], [18],
[27]). All these works differ on a number of significant points
from the present work : first, they deal with manipulators
that are actuated at a finite number of joints, while taking
into account flexibility of the links. Here, the purpose is
to derive algorithms that compute accelerations or torques
as functions of a continuous space variable, i.e. densities.
One motivation for such developments comes from some
of the targeted applications : hyper-redundant manipulators
1
This article is the development of a short preliminary note [22]
and continuous biomimetics robots that can undergo large
displacements, making continuous models attractive when one
wants e.g. to simulate dynamical evolutions in a realistic
fashion. Notice that [23] argued that continuous beam models
are quite adequate to represent a living eel body. As a conse-
quence : whereas in most of existing works a small strain and
displacements assumption is made, hence making approximate
first order, linear elastic models sufficient, and allowing for
separating rigid body motions from elastic ones, the modelling
approach that is used in the present work is geometrically
exact in the sense of [26] : an important consequence is that
no approximation is made from the very beginning, while
deriving the algorithms. Only the unavoidable time and space
discretizations at the very end of the process lead to approx-
imations for numerical integration. Nevertheless, most of the
modelling approaches for very flexible biomimetical robots
generally use multibody models with a certain -possibly large-
number of rigid links [15]. Thus the use of continuous models
still has to be developed and the results of the present work can
then be seen as a building block towards modelling complex
flexible mechanical systems undergoing large displacements,
in the spirit of Newton-Euler formalism.
On another hand, analogy of recursive Newton-Euler equa-
tions for multibody systems with optimal filtering [25] and
discrete-time optimal control [13] has been evidenced. This
interesting analogy was not really used as a principle for
deriving equations but simply pointed out while using the trick
of separating linear from nonlinear effects in [13]. A slight
improvement of this approach was given in [21] for the usual
case of Newton-Euler formalism for multibody systems, in
the sense that the Newton-Euler recursions were derived in
a purely deductive way. In the present work, this approach
is extended in order to obtain a Newton-Euler formalism
for continuous beam theory, where recursions are replaced
by ordinary differential equations in the continuous space
variable, as one can expect. It is worth noting that only such
a deductive approach can give a general means for deriving
analogous Newton-Euler equations, that would be otherwise
very hard to exhibit. The concrete motivation for deriving
a formalism in the continuous case comes from the recent
derivation of a continuous 3D computed torque algorithm for
a swimming eel-robot [7], where the analogy with (backward)
Newton-Euler has been pointed out but derivation of a for-
ward analogous is far from being evident. The present work
1-4244-0259-X/06/$20.00 ©2006 IEEE
4163
Proceedings of the 2006 IEEE/RSJ
International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems
October 9 - 15, 2006, Beijing, China
makes derivation of both continuous algorithms systematic as
was done in the classical case, using Gauss least constraint
principle along the line evidenced by P. Appell [1]. It is worth
mentionning that all the ingredients on which the present work
rely upon have been known for a long time but that their
conjunction leads to derivations from first principles that are
new. The presentation is organized as follows : after having
fixed the main notations in section II, section III describes the
geometric model of the beam, together with a velocity and
acceleration analysis. Then, section IV, after having quickly
recalled the essence of Appell’s method for motion equations
derivation, exhibits the acceleration energy (Gibbs function) of
the considered system, leading to a quadratic function of the
acceleration to be minimized. In section V a related optimal
control problem is posed and solved that straightforwardly
leads, in section VI, to the continuous backward and forward
Newton-Euler algorithms. Eventually, some conclusions and
perspectives are drawn.
II. NOTATIONS
In the sequel, dots over some quantity will indicate dif-
ferentiation with respect to time t and primes, differentiation
with respect to the space variable X. The beam is supposed
to have its length normed to one so that X ∈ [0, 1]. The
dependence on time and space variables will not, as a rule, be
made explicit in the curse of the paper. For a vector y ∈ R
3
,
ˆ y is the antisymmetric matrix such that ∀z ∈ R
3
, ˆ yz = y ×z
and × is the usual vector product. The identity matrix of R
3
is denoted I
3
; thus some care is in order for not confusing
with the inertia of one section, denoted I.
III. KINEMATICAL MODEL OF A CONTINUOUS COSSERAT
BEAM
The chosen geometry of the three dimensional model for
a geometrically exact continuous Cosserat beam is given for
granted and is recalled here only for the sake of fixing
notations. One can find details about its derivation in [7]. The
fundamental idea of the Cosserat theory [11] is to consider
a beam as a set of stacked microsolids, named hereafter
“sections”, labelled by the material abcissa, X, along some
abstract neutral line (the line of centroids). To each section is
rigidly attached an orthonormal frame. In the case of an eel-
robot e.g. this line would represent the spine, this being in very
accordance with observations made by biologists on living
eels [23]. Also, it is assumed that there is neither shearing
(Kirchoff beams hypothesis) nor extensibility of the body but
this does not prevent the generality of the method. Every cross
section, labelled X, of the beam has configuration described
by r(X) (i.e. an element of R
3
, see Fig. 1), the position of its
mass center in a reference frame, and R(X), its attitude, under
the appearance of a rotation (i.e. an element of the rotation
group SO(3)) that transforms one section at rest into itself in
the deformed configuration. Thus the configuration space of
the beam is the principal bundle R
3
×SO(3).
The kinematics of the beam is described first by a twist-
curvature tensor field Ω. Actually Ω is the Darboux vector as
X=1
X=0
X
r(X)
R(X)
t (X)
1
Fig. 1. Configuration variables of the beam model
defined in [19], so that the torsion is the material torsion of the
beam and not the geometric torsion of the centroid line. Ω is
defined by : ∂R/∂X = R

= RΩ. One has also the constraint
imposed by the inextensibility assumption : ∂r/∂X = r

= t
1
where (see Fig. 1) t
1
is the unit tangent vector to the neutral
line of the beam, R is the rotation matrix mapping the X
mobile basis before deformation onto that after. Summarizing
these considerations, from now on, a geometric model is in
force :
_
R

= RΩ
r

= t
1
(1)
A velocity and acceleration analysis can then be done in the
usual way. A first time differentiation gives the kinematical
model for velocities :
_
ω

=
˙
k +k ×ω
˙ r

= ω ×t
1
(2)
with ω the axial vector corresponding to the matrix ˆ ω =
˙
RR
T
, and k, the axial vector corresponding to the matrix
ˆ
k = RΩR
T
. A second time differentiation gives the kinematic
model for accelerations :
_
˙ ω

=
¨
k +
˙
k ×ω +k × ˙ ω
¨ r

= ˙ ω ×t
1
+ω ×(ω ×t
1
)
(3)
For the ease of subsequent analogy with optimal control, it is
worth rewriting this system in matrix form as :
_
¨ r
˙ ω
_
=


0|−
ˆ
t
1
−| −
0|
ˆ
k


_
¨ r
˙ ω
_
+
_
0
¨
k
_
+
_
ω ×(ω ×t
1
)
˙
k ×ω
_
(4)
Thus the system of equations for the accelerations is a
variable coefficients, linear inhomogeneous differential one,
with independent variable X, It is imposed by the modelling
hypothesis, i.e. it represents chosen design constraints : such a
choice is up to the designer hence any other geometric model
of a beam would be convenient too.
IV. GAUSS LEAST CONSTRAINT PRINCIPLE AND
GIBBS-APPELL APPROACH TO MOTION EQUATIONS
DERIVATION
The approach (also known as “Gibbs-Appell”) of P. Ap-
pell [1], [2] to deriving motion equations of a mechanical
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system is quickly summarized here. It is based on the consid-
eration of an “acceleration energy” [12] (or “Gibbs function”)
instead of kinetic energy that is used for deriving Lagrange
equations. Define S, this acceleration energy of the mechanical
system under consideration, the following way : let γ(P, q)
be the acceleration of particle with mass dm
P
located at P.
Then : S =
_
1
2
|γ(P, q)|
2
dm
P
where the integral extends
to the whole system, and q is the configuration parameter
(generalized coordinate). Let Q be the vector of applied efforts
and E the analytical expression of the constraint [2] in the
sense of Gauss principle with E = S −Q
T
¨ q. Then P. Appell
has shown that the motion equations take the form :
∂S
∂¨ q
= Q (5)
But, much more important in the present situation, P. Appell
observed that this acceleration energy has tight connections
with Gauss least constraint principle. More precisely, P. Appell
has shown [1] that the motion equations are those obtained
when searching for the minimum of the analytical expression
of the constraint, E, a quadratic function of ¨ q.
For the Cosserat beam model, the generalized coordinates are
r(X), R(X), X ∈ [0, 1] from which the corresponding vector
of accelerations is : (¨ r
T
, ˙ ω
T
)
T
. The acceleration energy of
one section at X is straightforwardly computed, thanks to a
Koenigs theorem for the acceleration energy [2], quite similar
to the well-known Koenigs theorem for kinetic energies, to
be :
S(X) =
1
2
_
¨ r
T
˙ ω
T
_
_
ρAI
3
0
0 ρI
__
¨ r
˙ ω
_
+
_
0
(ω ×(ρIω))
_
T
_
¨ r
˙ ω
_
(6)
where for fixed X, ρ is the density of the beam, A is the
section area and I its inertia. As for the applied efforts, it
is necessary to consider the nonvanishing work of all active
efforts. External efforts (forces and torques) are summarized in
the vector :
_
f
T
ext
|c
T
ext
_
T
. These applied efforts are not detailed
here as it is outside the scope of the present work but gravity
as well as a fluid model for a swimming robot e.g. can be taken
into account. Consider now the torque at X, denoted Γ, and the
corresponding generalized coordinate, denoted k, the curvature
density at X : either
¨
k or Γ can be considered as an unknown
control input, introducing external energy to the system. Thus,
remembering the above definition of E, the contribution of
k to the constraint is Γ
T
¨
k. Eventually, gathering results, the
expression of the constraint at section X is :
E(X) = S(X) −Γ
T
¨
k (7)
Define the analytical expression of the constraint on the whole
body as the sum : E
b
=
_
1
0
E(X)dX. Gauss least constraint
principle stipulates that for obtaining motions equations, one
has to search for the minimum of this quadratic form (in ¨ r
and ˙ ω), subject to the “dynamical” (in space) equation (4).
The supplementary fact now is that there remain unknown
variables : either
¨
k or Γ, each playing the role of “control
input“ when the other set is given as data. Each situation
gives rise to the backward or forward Newton-Euler algorithm,
that is obtained in the next section as the solution of an
evolutionary quadratic optimal control problem.
V. A NON HOMOGENEOUS, SINGULAR, VARIABLE
COEFFICIENTS, OPTIMAL CONTROL PROBLEM
The conclusions of section IV, considering (6)-(7) together
with (4), suggest considering the following optimal control
problem
2
. Firstly, let :
J(X, U) =
_
x
f
x
0
(
1
2
X
T
ΣX +b
T
X +c
T
U)dX (8)
be some quadratic “functional” of some given state X and
control U.
Problem
Solve :
min
U
J(X, U) (9)
under the evolutionary constraint:
X

= FX +GU +h (10)
All the quantities either in the functional J or the dynamical
equation are functions of the independent space variable X
thus it is a variable coefficients problem. It is apparent that,
because the control appears linearly in the functional, the
optimization problem to be solved is a singular one [9].
Although it is a rather routine task, detailed derivation will
be given for the first order necessary conditions, because of
this singularity and also because of the inhomogeneous part
in the dynamical equations and this not usually exposed in
textbooks, to the author’s knowledge.
It is usual, introducing Lagrange multiplier λ, to define the
following hamiltonian for such a problem :
H =
1
2
X
T
ΣX +b
T
X +c
T
U +λ
T
(FX +GU +h) (11)
A first remark is that H does not depend explicitely on time.
Thus it will remain constant along optimal trajectories. Now,
the first order necessary conditions for optimality [9] write :







X

=
∂H
∂λ
= FX +GU +h
λ

= −
∂H
∂X
T
= −F
T
λ −ΣX −b
0 =
∂H
∂U
T
= c +G
T
λ
(12)
The last condition (
∂H
∂U
= 0) does not give an expression
for the optimal control, making it a singular problem ( [9],
ch. 8). In fact, in the setting of algebraic theory of differ-
ential equations, the above first order necessary conditions
for optimality constitute a differential system of equations in
(X, λ) that is not formally integrable
3
because of the presence
2
All considerations in this paragraph are at a formal level, with no analytical
considerations, hence no mention is made e.g. of the spaces where the different
objects live
3
This means that the set of equations is unsufficient to determine the
solution through a Taylor power series, as conditions on successive derivatives
are not explicit in the system and can appear after subsequent differentiations
4165
of a zero order equation (the last one). In the language of
DAE [8] (Differential Algebraic Equations), one would say
that the differential system is higher index and more precisely
an index two system. The usual way of dealing with this is
to compute successive derivatives of
∂H
∂U
with respect to the
independent variable, until the control U explicitely appears,
in order that, after substitution, the system will actually be
formally integrable.
Starting thus from : H
u
= G
T
λ+c = 0, a first differentiation
gives :
H

u
= G
T
λ +G
T
λ

+c

= G
T
λ −G
T
F
T
λ −G
T
ΣX −G
T
b +c

= (G
T
−G
T
F
T
)λ −G
T
ΣX −G
T
b +c

= G
1
λ −G
2
X +G
3
(13)
with G
1
= G
T
−G
T
F
T
, G
2
= G
T
Σ, G
3
= c

−G
T
b. As U
does not appear in this expression, another differentiation has
to be taken (that is why the system is index two) :
H

u
=G

1
λ +G
1
λ

−G

2
X −G
2
X

+G

3
=(G

1
−G
1
F
T
)λ −(G
1
Σ +G

2
+G
2
F)X
+(G

3
−G
1
b −G
2
h) −G
T
ΣGU = 0
(14)
upon using the state and adjoint equations and collecting
terms. From this, the optimal control writes :
U

= (G
T
ΣG)
−1
(K
1
λ +K
2
X +K
3
) (15)
where the intermediate quantities K
1
, K
2
, K
3
are defined as :
K
1
= G

1
−G
1
F
T
(16)
K
2
=−(G
1
Σ +G

2
+G
2
F)
(17)
K
3
=G

3
−G
1
b −G
2
h (18)
The results so far obtained can be summarized now as :





H = α
H
u
= G
T
λ +c = 0
H

u
= G
1
λ −G
2
X +G
3
(19)
This constitutes a system of equations in (X, λ) that define
the locus of possible singular arcs in the space of (X, λ) and
the so far obtained expression (15) for the optimal control U

is valid on such a singular arc, α being a constant traducing
the fact that H is constant on the optimal trajectories.
Now, one popular method of solution is the sweep method
(see [9]). It is founded on the fact that, as the state and adjoint
equations are linear (and inhomogeneous here), we can seek
λ as an affine function of the state X : λ = SX + κ, where
S and κ have to be determined by some means, in order
that the optimality system can be integrated. More precisely,
adding the preceding zero order equation to the original
system makes it nonformally integrable so that new equations
have to be found that will make the resulting system formally
integrable. It is worth noting that searching an expression for
λ, that is affine in X, simply amounts to finding an affine
feedback law.
Thus, starting from λ = SX + κ, differentiation and suitable
substitutions lead to :
λ

=S

X +SX

=S

X +S(FX +GU +h) +κ

=S

X +SFX +SG(G
T
ΣG)
−1
(K
1
λ +K
2
X +K
3
)
+Sh +κ

(20)
Using the adjoint equation (second equation in (12)), this is
equal to : −F
T
λ −ΣX −b. From this it is deduced that :
(S

+SF +F
T
S +SG(G
T
ΣG)
−1
(K
1
S +K
2
) + Σ)X
+(κ

+Sh +F
T
κ +SG(G
T
ΣG)
−1
(K
1
κ +K
3
) +b) = 0
(21)
As this equality must hold for any X (i.e. it must be an
identity), we get the following system of two differential
equations (for S and κ) :
_
S

+SF +F
T
S +SG(G
T
ΣG)
−1
(K
1
S +K
2
) + Σ=0
κ

+Sh +F
T
κ +SG(G
T
ΣG)
−1
(K
1
κ +K
3
) +b=0
(22)
which can be rewritten as :







S

+SG(G
T
ΣG)
−1
K
1
S +S(F +G(G
T
ΣG)
−1
K
2
)
+F
T
S + Σ = 0
κ

+(F
T
+SG(G
T
ΣG)
−1
K
1
)κ +Sh
+SG(G
T
ΣG)
−1
K
3
+b = 0
(23)
The equation for S is clearly a Riccati equation, as it is
quadratic in S.
In conclusion, to formally solve the optimal control problem
given at the beginning we proceed along the following steps :
1) Given Σ, b, c, F, G, h
2) solve equation (23) for S and κ
3) solve the state equation, i.e. the first equation of sys-
tem (12) for X while simultaneously computing the
optimal control with equation (15)
The next section makes use of these four steps to derive the
continuous forward algorithm for the considered beam model.
VI. THE NEWTON-EULER BACKWARD AND FORWARD
ALGORITHMS
It is an easy task now, by identifying the data in section IV
and those in section V, to write down the backward and
forward algorithms for the continuous Newton-Euler model.
Comparing (9) to (6)-(7) and (10) to (4), respectively, and
looking at (12), let :
X =
_
¨ r
˙ ω
_
; λ =
_
n
M
_
; U =
¨
k; F =
_
0|−
ˆ
t
1
0|
ˆ
k
_
; G =
_
0
I
3
_
;
h =
_
ω ×(ω ×t
1
)
˙
k ×ω
_
; Σ =
_
σ
1
| 0
0 |σ
2
_
;
b =
_
−f
ext
−c
ext
+ (ω ×(ρIω))
_
; c = −Γ;
σ
1
= ρAI
3
; σ
2
= ρI
(24)
With these definitions, some expressions are very simple :
definition of G implies e.g. that (G
T
ΣG)
−1
= σ
−1
2
.
4166



















S

+S
_
0 | 0
−σ
2
−1
(
ˆ
t

1
+
ˆ
k
ˆ
t
1
)|σ
2
−1
(
ˆ
k

+
ˆ
k
ˆ
k)
_
S +S
_
−σ
1
−1
σ

1
| 0
σ
2
−1
σ
1
ˆ
t
1
|−σ
2
−1
σ

2

ˆ
k
_
+
_
0 | 0
ˆ
t
1
|−
ˆ
k
_
S +
_
σ
1
| 0
0 |σ
2
_
= 0
κ

+
__
0 | 0
ˆ
t
1
|−
ˆ
k
_
+S
_
0 | 0
−σ
−1
2
(
ˆ
t

1
+
ˆ
k
ˆ
t
1
)|σ
−1
2
(
ˆ
k

+
ˆ
k
ˆ
k)
__
κ

−1
2
S
_
0
−Γ

+ (c
ext
−ω ×(ρIω))


ˆ
t
1
f
ext
+
ˆ
k(c
ext
−ω ×(ρIω))
_
+
_
−f
ext
−c
ext
+ (ω ×(ρIω))
_
= 0
(25)
A. Backward algorithm
In the language of Newton-Euler formalism for multibody
systems, the backward algorithm takes the accelerations as
inputs and aims at giving the necessary torques as outputs.
Firstly, writing down the optimality condition of the hamilto-
nian H (11) with respect to the control (third equation of (12))
gives : −Γ + M = 0, as expected, i.e. the adjoint state, a
Lagrange multiplier, gives the necessary efforts. Getting the
searched efforts thus simply amounts to solving the adjoint
equation of the state equation (4), i.e., using the second
equation in (12) :
_
n
M
_
=
_
0 |0

ˆ
t
1
|
ˆ
k
__
n
M
_

_
ρAI
3
0
0 ρI
__
¨ r
˙ ω
_

_
−f
ext
−c
ext
+ (ω ×(ρIω))
_ (26)
One concludes that (26) is the backward algorithm for the
considered continuous beam model. Notice that (26) gives
exactly the continuous computed torque (i.e. backward) al-
gorithm as given in [7] when modelling a 3D eel-robot while
taking into account a simple Morison model for the fluid-
structure interaction (see [20] for explicit computations). It
was obtained in [7] through the use of the principle of virtual
work. As the backward algorithm is used for control purposes,
¨ r and ˙ ω are given as known control inputs so that, fixing e.g.
n and M at one end allows for integrating (26) for X ∈]0, 1[,
i.e. one computes this way the distributed efforts along the
beam and this, for each time t. As for boundary conditions,
for a beam free at both ends, the wrenches (n, M) have to
vanish there. For a manipulator with fixed basis and one free
end, one would impose a vanishing wrench at this end and
vanishing accelerations at the basis.
B. Forward algorithm
The forward algorithm is known, when dealing with
classical serial multibody systems with usual methods, to
be significantly more difficult to obtain than the backward
one and to necessitate one recursion more. In the continuous
case, it would be a really difficult and huge task to obtain an
analogous algorithm when proceeding along the same path.
It is in that respect that the analogy with optimal control
shows real powerfulness, making these derivations systematic
and straightforward, as one can see hereafter. Recall that the
forward algorithm is to compute joint accelerations given
joint torques. In the present continuous case, one will in fact
compute accelerations as functions of the space variable X,
given distributed torques for X ∈]0, 1[. Thus, following the
steps enumerated at the end of section V, this algorithm is
as follows, being understood that it can be included, when
necessary, in a time loop for a dynamical analysis, i.e. each
of the following steps is valid for all t :
1) Given ρ, A(X), I(X), Γ(X) and suitable boundary
conditions (see below)
2) ∀X ∈]0, 1[
2-a) Compute Σ, b, F, h
2-b) Solve the differential system (25) for S and κ
2-c) Solve the state equation (see (4)) for
_
¨ r
˙ ω
_
:
_
¨ r
˙ ω
_
=
_
0|−
ˆ
t
1
0|
ˆ
k
__
¨ r
˙ ω
_
+
_
0
¨
k
_
+
_
ω ×(ω ×t
1
)
˙
k ×ω
_
(27)
while computing at the same time the accelerations
through (15) as :
σ
1
¨
k=
_
−(
ˆ
t

1
+
ˆ
k
ˆ
t
1
)S
11
+ (
ˆ
k

+
ˆ
k
ˆ
k)S
21

1
ˆ
t
1
_
¨ r
+
_
−(
ˆ
t

1
+
ˆ
k
ˆ
t
1
)S
12
+ (
ˆ
k

+
ˆ
k
ˆ
k)S
22
−σ

2
I −2σ
2
ˆ
k
_
˙ ω
−(
ˆ
t

1
+
ˆ
k
ˆ
t
1

1
+ (
ˆ
k

+
ˆ
k
ˆ
k)κ
2
−Γ

+ (c
ext
−ω ×(ρIω))


ˆ
t
1
f
ext
+
ˆ
k(c
ext
−ω ×(ρIω)) −σ
2
˙
k ×ω
(28)
where a block decomposition of S is done that fits the
definition of the state vector X with ¨ r and ˙ ω It is worth
noting that the differential system (in space) made of (27)
and (28) is actually a differential algebraic one, due to the
zero-order equation for
¨
k. But, due to the explicit expression
for
¨
k, direct substitution of
¨
k into (27) makes it an ordinary
differential system that is integrated without difficulty. Then,
the searched after field of accelerations are computed thanks
to (28). Suitable boundary conditions are needed for the
algorithm to start. Let us mention some possible choices, as
illustrations : in the case of a free beam or of an eel-robot in a
fluid, both ends are free so that the wrench vanishes at X = 0
and X = 1 :
_
n
M
_
|(X=0)
=
_
n
M
_
|(X=1)
=
_
0
0
_
(29)
In the case of a hyper-redundant manipulator, with a fixed
basis e.g., one will impose that the acceleration at X = 0 and
4167
the wrench at X = 1 vanish :
_
¨ r
˙ ω
_
|(X=0)
=
_
0
0
_
;
_
n
M
_
|(X=1)
=
_
0
0
_
(30)
but one could have chosen to impose some motion to the
basis either. Such boundary conditions give starting values
for integrating (25), remembering that the adjoint state λ is
an affine function of the state X. Other situations such e.g.
assigning a known motion to one end can model a hyper-
redundant manipulator on a mobile platform and are taken
into account by the above considerations exactly the same way,
although in that case nonholonomic constraints on velocities
should be included at an earlier stage, in the derivations of
section III. One sees that a continuous forward algorithm for
the chosen beam model is straightforwardly obtained. A key
issue in the implementation of the algorithm is the solution
of the matrix-vector differential system (25) : thanks to the
availability of powerfull tools in Matlab-like programming
softwares and standard numerical libraries such as IMSl, such
matrix-vector equations are easily implemented and solved,
making the above algorithm attractive.
VII. CONCLUSION
In this work, a Newton-Euler formalism has been exhibited
for a continuous, geometrically exact, Cosserat beam model
thanks to a joint use of optimal control theory, Gauss least
constraint principle and Gibbs-Appell method for motion
equations derivation. It can be seen as an extension of a
method from the classical discrete case to the continuous case.
The most interesting result is a systematic derivation of the
forward algorithm that would be otherwise very difficult to
obtain. Also, the followed approach gives a unifying perspec-
tive of the two algorithms (backward and forward) of the
Newton-Euler formalism. On the concrete side, the previous
derivations can be useful as well when one wants to develop
analogous algorithms for robots that have to be made of a -
possibly large- number of rigid links. Possible developments
using this approach could be made for manipulators on mobile
platforms or other mechanical systems that fit into the Newton-
Euler formalism, i.e. a great variety of mechanical structures. It
is likely that the framework developped here will facilitate the
derivations of backward and forward Newton-Euler algorithms
in these situations. Being recursive in nature, the method can
easily be implemented as the core of the forward algorithm is
a matrix Riccati equation, for which efficient solvers exist in
standard numerical libraries and software. The achievements
of the present work can be seen as a possible building block
for analysis and control of more complex flexible structures
undergoing large displacements.
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ACKNOWLEDGMENT
This work, as part of an Eel-Robot project, was supported by
french Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)
through the ROBEA program (RObotique et Entit´ es Artifi-
cielles), and by R´ egion Pays de la Loire, Institut de Recherche
en Communication et Cybern´ etique de Nantes (IRCCyN),
Ecole des Mines de Nantes.
4168

an element of R3 . with independent variable X. an element of the rotation group SO(3)) that transforms one section at rest into itself in the deformed configuration. leading to a quadratic function of the acceleration to be minimized. i. it is worth rewriting this system in matrix form as : ⎞ ⎛ ˆ 0 |−t1 ω × (ω × t1 ) 0 r ¨ r ¨ + ¨ + = ⎝−| − ⎠ (4) ˙ ω ˙ ω ˙ k k×ω ˆ 0| k Thus the system of equations for the accelerations is a variable coefficients. differentiation with respect to the space variable X. N OTATIONS In the sequel. and k. In the case of an eelrobot e. a geometric model is in force : R = RΩ (1) r = t1 A velocity and acceleration analysis can then be done in the usual way. In section V a related optimal control problem is posed and solved that straightforwardly leads. It is worth mentionning that all the ingredients on which the present work rely upon have been known for a long time but that their conjunction leads to derivations from first principles that are new. 1. III. and R(X). named hereafter “sections”. under the appearance of a rotation (i.e. 1) t1 is the unit tangent vector to the neutral line of the beam. II. labelled X. The identity matrix of R3 is denoted I3 . R is the rotation matrix mapping the X mobile basis before deformation onto that after. thus some care is in order for not confusing with the inertia of one section. IV. Configuration variables of the beam model defined in [19]. to the continuous backward and forward Newton-Euler algorithms. Then. its attitude. along some abstract neutral line (the line of centroids).makes derivation of both continuous algorithms systematic as was done in the classical case. in section VI. see Fig. after having quickly recalled the essence of Appell’s method for motion equations derivation. it is assumed that there is neither shearing (Kirchoff beams hypothesis) nor extensibility of the body but this does not prevent the generality of the method. the axial vector corresponding to the matrix ˆ k = RΩRT . G AUSS LEAST CONSTRAINT PRINCIPLE AND G IBBS -A PPELL APPROACH TO MOTION EQUATIONS DERIVATION The chosen geometry of the three dimensional model for a geometrically exact continuous Cosserat beam is given for granted and is recalled here only for the sake of fixing notations. from now on. Also. using Gauss least constraint principle along the line evidenced by P. It is imposed by the modelling hypothesis. Summarizing these considerations. The beam is supposed to have its length normed to one so that X ∈ [0. A second time differentiation gives the kinematic model for accelerations : ¨ ˙ ˙ ω = k+k×ω+k×ω ˙ (3) ˙ r = ω × t1 + ω × (ω × t1 ) ¨ For the ease of subsequent analogy with optimal control.e. Appell [1].e. One has also the constraint imposed by the inextensibility assumption : ∂r/∂X = r = t1 where (see Fig. The fundamental idea of the Cosserat theory [11] is to consider a beam as a set of stacked microsolids. some conclusions and perspectives are drawn. For a vector y ∈ R3 . 1]. this line would represent the spine. so that the torsion is the material torsion of the beam and not the geometric torsion of the centroid line. denoted I. The presentation is organized as follows : after having fixed the main notations in section II. The kinematics of the beam is described first by a twistcurvature tensor field Ω. exhibits the acceleration energy (Gibbs function) of the considered system. Appell [1]. K INEMATICAL MODEL OF A CONTINUOUS C OSSERAT BEAM t (X) 1 R(X) r(X) X=0 X X=1 Fig. linear inhomogeneous differential one. X. [2] to deriving motion equations of a mechanical 4164 . To each section is rigidly attached an orthonormal frame. dots over some quantity will indicate differentiation with respect to time t and primes. Eventually. together with a velocity and acceleration analysis. labelled by the material abcissa. be made explicit in the curse of the paper. of the beam has configuration described by r(X) (i. One can find details about its derivation in [7]. Ω is defined by : ∂R/∂X = R = R Ω. this being in very accordance with observations made by biologists on living eels [23]. section IV. The dependence on time and space variables will not. the position of its mass center in a reference frame. Thus the configuration space of the beam is the principal bundle R3 × SO(3). y z = y × z ˆ and × is the usual vector product. 1). it represents chosen design constraints : such a choice is up to the designer hence any other geometric model of a beam would be convenient too. Actually Ω is the Darboux vector as The approach (also known as “Gibbs-Appell”) of P. Every cross section. as a rule.g. A first time differentiation gives the kinematical model for velocities : ˙ ω = k+k×ω (2) r = ω × t1 ˙ with ω the axial vector corresponding to the matrix ω = ˆ ˙ RRT . section III describes the geometric model of the beam. ˆ y is the antisymmetric matrix such that ∀z ∈ R3 .

SINGULAR . Gauss least constraint principle stipulates that for obtaining motions equations. Appell has shown [1] that the motion equations are those obtained when searching for the minimum of the analytical expression of the constraint. introducing external energy to the system. to define the following hamiltonian for such a problem : 1 T X ΣX + bT X + cT U + λT (F X + GU + h) (11) 2 A first remark is that H does not depend explicitely on time. subject to the “dynamical” (in space) equation (4). the generalized coordinates are r(X). to be : S(X) = r ¨ ω ˙ (6) where for fixed X. q)| dmP where the integral extends to the whole system. ˙ The supplementary fact now is that there remain unknown ¨ variables : either k or Γ. 4165 . of the spaces where the different objects live 3 This means that the set of equations is unsufficient to determine the solution through a Taylor power series. 1 2 Then : S = 2 |γ(P. this acceleration energy of the mechanical system under consideration. The acceleration energy of r ˙ one section at X is straightforwardly computed. introducing Lagrange multiplier λ. More precisely. Eventually. gathering results. each playing the role of “control input“ when the other set is given as data. suggest considering the following optimal control problem2 . Each situation gives rise to the backward or forward Newton-Euler algorithm. quite similar to the well-known Koenigs theorem for kinetic energies. Consider now the torque at X. as conditions on successive derivatives are not explicit in the system and can appear after subsequent differentiations (7) Define the analytical expression of the constraint on the whole 1 body as the sum : Eb = 0 E(X)dX. ch. the contribution of ¨ k to the constraint is ΓT k. the expression of the constraint at section X is : E(X) = S(X) − Γ k T¨ that is obtained in the next section as the solution of an evolutionary quadratic optimal control problem. denoted Γ. 1] from which the corresponding vector of accelerations is : (¨T . Thus. the following way : let γ(P. q) be the acceleration of particle with mass dmP located at P . in the setting of algebraic theory of differential equations. Firstly. Problem Solve : min J(X . In fact. 8). making it a singular problem ( [9]. OPTIMAL CONTROL PROBLEM The conclusions of section IV. the above first order necessary conditions for optimality constitute a differential system of equations in (X .system is quickly summarized here. External efforts (forces and torques) are summarized in T T . hence no mention is made e.g. Although it is a rather routine task. the curvature ¨ density at X : either k or Γ can be considered as an unknown control input. because of this singularity and also because of the inhomogeneous part in the dynamical equations and this not usually exposed in textbooks. let : J(X . X ∈ [0. VARIABLE COEFFICIENTS . P. A NON HOMOGENEOUS . ω T )T . These applied efforts are not detailed the vector : fext |cT ext here as it is outside the scope of the present work but gravity as well as a fluid model for a swimming robot e. ¨ For the Cosserat beam model. Thus it will remain constant along optimal trajectories. U) = xf x0 1 ( X T ΣX + bT X + cT U)dX 2 (8) be some quadratic “functional” of some given state X and control U. R(X). U) U (9) under the evolutionary constraint: X = F X + GU + h (10) 1 T T r ω ¨ ˙ 2 ρAI3 0 0 ρI r ¨ 0 + ω ˙ (ω × (ρIω)) T All the quantities either in the functional J or the dynamical equation are functions of the independent space variable X thus it is a variable coefficients problem. thanks to a Koenigs theorem for the acceleration energy [2]. Appell has shown that the motion equations take the form : ∂S =Q (5) ∂q ¨ But. to the author’s knowledge. A is the section area and I its inertia. ρ is the density of the beam. detailed derivation will be given for the first order necessary conditions. Now. one has to search for the minimum of this quadratic form (in r ¨ and ω). can be taken into account. considering (6)-(7) together with (4). E. It is apparent that. and the corresponding generalized coordinate. the optimization problem to be solved is a singular one [9]. denoted k. V. and q is the configuration parameter (generalized coordinate). As for the applied efforts. Appell observed that this acceleration energy has tight connections with Gauss least constraint principle. P. Then P. much more important in the present situation.g. it is necessary to consider the nonvanishing work of all active efforts. λ) that is not formally integrable3 because of the presence 2 All considerations in this paragraph are at a formal level. because the control appears linearly in the functional. a quadratic function of q . with no analytical considerations. It is based on the consideration of an “acceleration energy” [12] (or “Gibbs function”) instead of kinetic energy that is used for deriving Lagrange equations. remembering the above definition of E. Define S. the first order necessary conditions for optimality [9] write : ⎧ ⎪ X = ∂H = F X + GU + h ⎪ ∂λ ⎨ T (12) λ = − ∂H = −F T λ − ΣX − b ∂X ⎪ ⎪ ⎩ ∂H T T 0 = ∂U = c + G λ H= The last condition ( ∂H = 0) does not give an expression ∂U for the optimal control. Let Q be the vector of applied efforts and E the analytical expression of the constraint [2] in the ¨ sense of Gauss principle with E = S − QT q . It is usual.

some expressions are very simple : −1 definition of G implies e.g. In conclusion. one popular method of solution is the sweep method (see [9]).Σ = h= . Thus. λ) and the so far obtained expression (15) for the optimal control U ∗ is valid on such a singular arc. differentiation and suitable substitutions lead to : λ =S X + SX + κ =S X + S(F X + GU + h) + κ =S X + SF X + SG(GT ΣG)−1 (K1 λ + K2 X + K3 ) +Sh + κ (20) Using the adjoint equation (second equation in (12)). by identifying the data in section IV and those in section V. respectively. another differentiation has to be taken (that is why the system is index two) : Hu =G1 λ + G1 λ − G2 X − G2 X + G 3 =(G1 − G1 F T )λ − (G1 Σ + G2 + G2 F )X +(G3 − G1 b − G2 h) − GT ΣGU = 0 (14) upon using the state and adjoint equations and collecting terms. as it is quadratic in S. 4166 .e. G. T HE N EWTON -E ULER BACKWARD AND FORWARD ALGORITHMS (13) with G1 = G − GT F T . K2 . this is equal to : −F T λ − ΣX − b. a first differentiation gives : Hu = = = = G λ + GT λ + c G λ − GT F T λ − GT ΣX − GT b + c (G − GT F T )λ − GT ΣX − GT b + c G1 λ − G2 X + G3 T T T T feedback law. c = −Γ. λ) that define the locus of possible singular arcs in the space of (X . i. it must be an identity). adding the preceding zero order equation to the original system makes it nonformally integrable so that new equations have to be found that will make the resulting system formally integrable. More precisely. until the control U explicitely appears. The usual way of dealing with this is to compute successive derivatives of ∂H with respect to the ∂U independent variable. As U does not appear in this expression. to formally solve the optimal control problem given at the beginning we proceed along the following steps : 1) Given Σ. we get the following system of two differential equations (for S and κ) : S + SF + F T S + SG(GT ΣG)−1 (K1 S + K2 ) + Σ=0 κ + Sh + F T κ + SG(GT ΣG)−1 (K1 κ + K3 ) + b=0 (22) which can be rewritten as : ⎧ ⎪S +SG(GT ΣG)−1 K1 S + S(F + G(GT ΣG)−1 K2 ) ⎪ ⎨ +F T S + Σ = 0 ⎪ κ +(F T + SG(GT ΣG)−1 K1 )κ + Sh ⎪ ⎩ +SG(GT ΣG)−1 K3 + b = 0 (23) The equation for S is clearly a Riccati equation.e. Now. VI. G = I3 . ω ˙ M 0| k ω × (ω × t1 ) σ1 | 0 . σ2 = ρI (24) With these definitions. It is founded on the fact that. simply amounts to finding an affine It is an easy task now. F = ˆ . b. after substitution. the system will actually be formally integrable. and looking at (12). that is affine in X . as the state and adjoint equations are linear (and inhomogeneous here). −cext + (ω × (ρIω)) σ1 = ρAI3 . we can seek λ as an affine function of the state X : λ = SX + κ. starting from λ = SX + κ. From this it is deduced that : (S + SF + F T S + SG(GT ΣG)−1 (K1 S + K2 ) + Σ)X +(κ + Sh + F T κ + SG(GT ΣG)−1 (K1 κ + K3 ) + b) = 0 (21) As this equality must hold for any X (i. c. α being a constant traducing the fact that H is constant on the optimal trajectories. let : ˆ 0|−t1 0 r ¨ n ¨ X = . G2 = GT Σ. in order that. Comparing (9) to (6)-(7) and (10) to (4). where S and κ have to be determined by some means. It is worth noting that searching an expression for λ. to write down the backward and forward algorithms for the continuous Newton-Euler model. the first equation of system (12) for X while simultaneously computing the optimal control with equation (15) The next section makes use of these four steps to derive the continuous forward algorithm for the considered beam model. From this. the optimal control writes : U ∗ = (GT ΣG)−1 (K1 λ + K2 X + K3 ) K1 = G1 − G1 F T K2 =−(G1 Σ + G2 + G2 F ) K3 =G3 − G1 b − G2 h (15) where the intermediate quantities K1 . K3 are defined as : (16) (17) (18) The results so far obtained can be summarized now as : ⎧ = α ⎪ H ⎨ H = GT λ + c = 0 (19) ⎪ u ⎩ Hu = G1 λ − G2 X + G3 This constitutes a system of equations in (X . In the language of DAE [8] (Differential Algebraic Equations). one would say that the differential system is higher index and more precisely an index two system. that (GT ΣG)−1 = σ2 . Starting thus from : Hu = GT λ + c = 0. h 2) solve equation (23) for S and κ 3) solve the state equation.of a zero order equation (the last one).λ = . in order that the optimality system can be integrated. G3 = c − GT b. F. ˙ 0 |σ2 k×ω −fext b= . U = k.

Backward algorithm In the language of Newton-Euler formalism for multibody systems. But. M ) have to noting that the differential system (in space) made of (27) vanish there.g. i. the adjoint state. definition of the state vector X with r and ω It is worth ¨ ˙ for a beam free at both ends. as be significantly more difficult to obtain than the backward illustrations : in the case of a free beam or of an eel-robot in a one and to necessitate one recursion more. Forward algorithm the searched after field of accelerations are computed thanks The forward algorithm is known. the backward algorithm takes the accelerations as inputs and aims at giving the necessary torques as outputs. ˆ −(t1 + k t1 )κ1 + (k + k k)κ2 − Γ + (cext − ω × (ρIω)) r and ω are given as known control inputs so that.. differential system that is integrated without difficulty. this algorithm is as follows. Notice that (26) gives through (15) as : exactly the continuous computed torque (i. as one can see hereafter. (28) i. the wrenches (n. B. Recall that the In the case of a hyper-redundant manipulator. due to the explicit expression vanishing accelerations at the basis. being understood that it can be included. I(X). Firstly. ¨ direct substitution of k into (27) makes it an ordinary ¨ for k. 1[. one will in fact basis e. A(X). when necessary. Getting the searched efforts thus simply amounts to solving the adjoint equation of the state equation (4).1 structure interaction (see [20] for explicit computations).e. Γ(X) and suitable boundary conditions (see below) 2) ∀X ∈]0..g. each of the following steps is valid for all t : 1) Given ρ. one would impose a vanishing wrench at this end and ¨ zero-order equation for k. for each time t. a Lagrange multiplier. making these derivations systematic M |(X=1) 0 M |(X=0) and straightforward. It is in that respect that the analogy with optimal control n 0 n = = (29) shows real powerfulness. Suitable boundary conditions are needed for the classical serial multibody systems with usual methods. b. F. to algorithm to start. when dealing with to (28). Thus. following the steps enumerated at the end of section V. one will impose that the acceleration at X = 0 and 4167 . fixing e. As for boundary conditions. backward) algorithm as given in [7] when modelling a 3D eel-robot while ˆˆ ˆ ˆˆ ¨ ˆ ¨ ˆ σ k= −(t1 + k t1 )S11 + (k + k k)S21 + σ1 t1 r taking into account a simple Morison model for the fluid. in a time loop for a dynamical analysis. It ˆˆ ˆ ˆˆ ˆ ˙ ˆ + −(t1 + k t1 )S12 + (k + k k)S22 − σ2 I − 2σ2 k ω was obtained in [7] through the use of the principle of virtual ˆˆ ˆ ˆˆ work. In the continuous fluid. h 2-b) Solve the differential system (25) for S and κ r ¨ 2-c) Solve the state equation (see (4)) for : ω ˙ r ¨ ω ˙ = ˆ 0|−t1 ˆ 0| k 0 ω × (ω × t1 ) r ¨ + ¨ + ˙ ω ˙ k k×ω (27) (26) One concludes that (26) is the backward algorithm for the while computing at the same time the accelerations considered continuous beam model. given distributed torques for X ∈]0. ¨ ˙ ˆ ˙ ˆ −t1 fext + k(cext − ω × (ρIω)) − σ2 k × ω n and M at one end allows for integrating (26) for X ∈]0.e. writing down the optimality condition of the hamiltonian H (11) with respect to the control (third equation of (12)) gives : −Γ + M = 0. i.e. as expected. both ends are free so that the wrench vanishes at X = 0 case. using the second equation in (12) : n M = n ρAI3 0 − M 0 ρI −fext − −cext + (ω × (ρIω)) 0 |0 ˆ ˆ −t1 |k r ¨ ω ˙ compute accelerations as functions of the space variable X. due to the end. For a manipulator with fixed basis and one free and (28) is actually a differential algebraic one.e. 1[ 2-a) Compute Σ. 1[. gives the necessary efforts. As the backward algorithm is used for control purposes. with a fixed forward algorithm is to compute joint accelerations given joint torques. Then. it would be a really difficult and huge task to obtain an and X = 1 : analogous algorithm when proceeding along the same path. one computes this way the distributed efforts along the where a block decomposition of S is done that fits the beam and this. In the present continuous case. i.e. Let us mention some possible choices.⎧ 0 | 0 0| 0 0 −σ1 −1 σ1 | σ1 | 0 ⎪S +S ⎪ S +S ⎪ −1 ˆ −1 ˆt1 )|σ2 −1 (k + k k) ˆ ˆˆ ˆ + t1 |−k S + 0 |σ2 = 0 ˆ ˆ ˆ ⎪ ˆ1 |−σ2 −1 σ2 − k −σ2 (t1 + k σ2 σ1 t ⎪ ⎪ ⎪ ⎪ ⎨ 0| 0 0 | 0 κ κ + ˆ ˆ +S −1 ˆ −1 ˆ ˆˆ ˆˆ ⎪ t1 |−k −σ2 (t1 + k t1 )|σ2 (k + k k) ⎪ ⎪ ⎪ ⎪ ⎪ ⎪ 0 −fext ⎪ +σ −1 S ⎩ =0 + 2 ˆ ˆ −cext + (ω × (ρIω)) −Γ + (cext − ω × (ρIω)) − t1 fext + k(cext − ω × (ρIω)) (25) A.

T. Corp. Conf. Jal Robotics Research. Walker.W. 2005. Simo and L. 2005. [21] G. Symbolic modelling of a flexible manipulator via assembling ot its generalized newton-euler model. W Armstrong. Hughes and G. In Proc. [7] F. Adcock. Likins.D. Also. Theory of elasticity. London.P. 7(6):743–749. Le Vey. The most interesting result is a systematic derivation of the forward algorithm that would be otherwise very difficult to obtain. (ECC’95) Conf. Porez. [27] R. 1993. The relationship between recursive multibody dynamics and discrete-time optimal control. Herm` s. e e Comptes rendus de l’acad´ mie des sciences de Paris. [22] G. 4168 .e. C ONCLUSION In this work. Damaren. Dynamics of elastic multibody chains. 1988. Robotics and Automation. Int. Long.H. The numerical solution of differential-algebraic equations. Symbolic modelling of flexible manipulators. [13] G. 1991. Comptes Rendus de l’Acad´ mie des Sciences de e Paris. Hyperredundant manipulators. Hemisphere Pub. North-Holland. 1984. a Newton-Euler formalism has been exhibited for a continuous. Computational Methods in Applied Mechanics and Engineering. Other situations such e. Recursive formulation for flexible multibody dynamics. Boyer and P. On the dynamics in space of rods undergoing large motions . the followed approach gives a unifying perspective of the two algorithms (backward and forward) of the Newton-Euler formalism. 2002. Int. geometrically exact. pages 2074– 2080. Book. Boyer and W. 1959.number of rigid links. Lifshitz. Identification and Control of Robots. e 459–460. Institut de Recherche e en Communication et Cybern´ tique de Nantes (IRCCyN).J. 1995. Such boundary conditions give starting values for integrating (25). The achievements of the present work can be seen as a possible building block for analysis and control of more complex flexible structures undergoing large displacements. J. Dombre. VII. IEEE Trans. e Ecole des Mines de Nantes. for which efficient solvers exist in standard numerical libraries and software. part 1 : open-loop systems. pages 327–337. Italy. Le Vey. A key issue in the implementation of the algorithm is the solution of the matrix-vector differential system (25) : thanks to the availability of powerfull tools in Matlab-like programming softwares and standard numerical libraries such as IMSl. Featherstone. Montr´ al. Robotics and Automation.E. Trait´ de M´ canique Rationnelle. Robotics and Automation. t. Recursive lagrangian dynamics of flexible manipulators arms. Sur une forme g´ n´ rale des equations de la dynamique.a geometrically exact approach. and R.B. such matrix-vector equations are easily implemented and solved. S. 130:1174–1177. 1987. Biologically Inspired Robots : Snake-like locomotors and manipulators. Mechanism and Machine theory. It can be seen as an extension of a method from the classical discrete case to the continuous case. 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