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Looking for a way where a joint with ball and socket or universal joint type of movement will freeze or lock in place, preventing movement, when a load is placed on the ball, and will unfreeze or unlock when the load is removed, restoring free movement.

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I am trying to understand your question. In order to rotate the ball joint, you must apply a force. The ball joint could not move if it were to lock under any load. However, a joint that automatically locks for loads that are greater than some arbitrary threshold value sounds plausible.

I am not aware of any mechanism to have this behavior with a ball joint (I have asked some colleagues if they knew, let me know if there is), but the implementation can be quite complex even for 1-DoF joints (e.g. seat-belts).

If you must use a ball joint, an option for you could be an active ball joint mechanism such as ABENICS Active Ball Joint Mechanism prototype (very cool, but far from a mature technology). A more conventional approach could be using three active revolute joints. Otherwise, you will have to review your design requirements.

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So a socket that is sliced much like a collet used in drills etc so that with no load the ball can move.

When loaded an external taper like a morse taper clamps the ball in the socket as the socket gets compressed by the taper.

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