Over the last two decades, extensive work has been conducted on dynamic effect of joint clearances in multibody mechanical systems. In contrast, little work has been devoted to optimizing the performance of these systems. In this study, analysis of revolute joint clearance is formulated in term of a Hertzian-based contact force model. For illustration, the classical slider-crank mechanism with a revolute clearance joint at the piston pin is presented, and a simulation model is developed using the analysis/design code MSC.ADAMS. The clearance is modeled as a pin-in-a-hole surface-to-surface dry contact, with appropriate contact force model between the joint and bearing surfaces. Different simulations are performed to demonstrate the influence of the joint clearance size and the input crank speed on the dynamic behavior of the system with the clearance joint. An innovative design-of-experiment (DOE)-based method for optimizing the performance of a mechanical system with the revolute joint clearance for different ranges of design parameters is then proposed. Based on the simulation model results from sample points, which are selected by a Latin hypercube sampling (LHS) method, a polynomial function Kriging meta-model is established instead of the actual simulation model. The reason for development and use of the meta-model is to bypass computationally intensive simulations of a computer model for different design parameter values in place of a more efficient and cost-effective mathematical model. Finally, numerical results obtained from two application examples, considering the different design parameters, including the joint clearance size, crank speed, and contact stiffness, are presented for further analyzing the dynamics of the revolute clearance joint in a mechanical system. This allows for predicting the influence of design parameter changes, in order to minimize contact forces, accelerations, and power requirements due to the existence of joint clearance.

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