A general formulation for the differential kinematics of hybrid-chain manipulators is developed based on transformation matrices. This formulation leads to velocity and acceleration analyses, as well as to the formation of Jacobians for singularity and unstable configuration analyses. A manipulator consisting of n nonsymmetrical subchains with an arbitrary arrangement of actuators in the subchain is called a hybrid-chain manipulator in this paper. The Jacobian of the manipulator (called here the system Jacobian) is a product of two matrices, namely the Jacobian of a leg and a matrix M containing the inverse of a matrix Dk, called the Jacobian of direct kinematics. The system Jacobian is singular when a leg Jacobian is singular; the resulting singularity is called the inverse kinematic singularity and it occurs at the boundary of inverse kinematic solutions. When the Dk matrix is singular, the M matrix and the system Jacobian do not exist. The singularity due to the singularity of the Dk matrix is the direct kinematic singularity and it provides positions where the manipulator as a whole loses at least one degree of freedom. Here the inputs to the manipulator become dependent on each other and are locked. While at these positions, the platform gains at least one degree of freedom, and becomes statically unstable. The system Jacobian may be used in the static force analysis. A stability index, defined in terms of the condition number of the Dk matrix, is proposed for evaluating the proximity of the configuration to the unstable configuration. Several illustrative numerical examples are presented.

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