We present a general framework for the modelling of a class of mechanical systems for robotic manipulation, consisting of articulated limbs with redundant tendinous actuation and unilateral constraints. Such systems, that include biomorphically designed devices, are regarded as a collection of rigid bodies, interacting through connections that model both joints and contacts with virtual springs. Methods previously developed for the analysis of force distribution in multiple whole-limb manipulation are generalised to this broader class of mechanisms, and are shown to provide a basis for the control of co-contraction and internal forces that guarantee proper operation of the system
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