A new approach is presented for modelling multi-body systems, which constitutes a substantial enhancement of the Rigid Finite Element method. The new approach is based on homogeneous transformations and joint coordinates, and it yields the advantage that equations of motion are automatically generated for systems consisting of alternate rigid and flexible links. Apart from its simple physical interpretation and easy computer implementation, the method is also valuable for educational purposes since it impressively illustrates the impact of mechanical features on the mathematical model. This novel modelling approach is then applied to systems such as offshore-cranes and telescopic rapiers.

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