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An analysis of robot arm dynamics and a graphical method of representing these dynamics suitable for computer aided design is presented. The inertia ellipsoid, which is used for graphically representing the mass properties of a single rigid body, is extended to a generalized ellipsoid for a series of rigid bodies such as a robot arm. By drawing the Generalized Inertia Ellipsoid (GIE) on a computer display, one can visualize the mass properties and dynamic behaviour of a robot manipulator. This method is applied to aid the design of a mechanical arm; the dimensions of the arm structure and its mass distribution are optimized on the basis of the evaluation of the arm dynamics displayed on a graphics terminal.