Dynamic & Control


This sheet gives some insight about stiffness and damping and their effect on the dynamics of mechanical systems.
Influence of stiffness

Stiffness increases the tracking behavior the displacement of the end-effector (mass m) in relation to the input (a stiff actuator). Moreover, it decreases the influence of the external force Fe, which is often a disturbance to the system.

Influence of damping

Damping is difficult! Damping can be regarded as loss of energy. However, the positive effect of damping is that it damps oscillations and resonances.

Damping prediction

The damping of mechanical systems is hard to predict. Rule of thumb: damping decreases with increasing frequency. Joints and other system impurities increase damping.
d=2\zeta \sqrt{cm} with viscous damping ratio \zeta

Systemζ [-]
Metals in elastic range0.01
Continuous metal structures0.02 - 0.04
Metal structures with joints0.03 - 0.07
Plastics (hard - soft)0.02 - 0.05
Sintered material (piezos)0.05
Airpots (vibration isolation tables)0.07
Response to the external force: H_1=\frac {x}{F_e}=\frac {1}{ms^2+ds+c}
Interpretation of stiffness and damping - Response to the external force


  • Eigen frequency: \omega _{ei}=\sqrt{\frac {c}{m}} \sim \sqrt c \sim \frac {1}{\sqrt m}
  • Gain at \omega =0 : A_i=\frac {1}{c} \sim \frac {1}{c}
Schematic overview

1 mass m, 1 spring c, 1 damper d, input xin, external force Fe

Interpretation of stiffness and damping - Schematic overview
Differential equation

m\" x+d(\dot x-\dot x_{\in })+c(x-x_{\in })=F_e

Tracking – design rule

When designing a system that has to track the input xin and that needs to be insensitive to disturbance force Fe, then design ‘light and stiff’.

Vibration isolation – design rule

When designing a system that needs to be insensitive to vibrations xin (such as ground vibrations), then design ‘heavy and weak’.

Eigen frequency

At this point the spring energy is converted into kinetic energy: cx=m\" x hence: c\widehat x=m\widehat x\omega ^2 and thus: \omega =\sqrt{c/m}

Response to the input: H_1=\frac {x}{x_{\in }}=\frac{ds+c}{ms^2+ds+c}
Interpretation of stiffness and damping - Response to the input


  • Eigen frequency: \omega _{ei}=\sqrt{\frac {c}{m}}\sim \sqrt c\sim \frac {1}{\sqrt m}
  • 2nd cross-over frequency: \omega _{ei}=\frac {c}{d}\sim c\sim \frac {1}{d}

(from cx=d\dot x hence: c\widehat x=d\widehat x\omega  and thus: \omega =c/d)

  • Gain at \omega =0: A_i=\frac {c}{c} = 1 = 0dB

This page uses QuickLaTeX to display formulas.