The impact response of a two-link rigid-flexible manipulator is studied. A spring-dashpot model, which is based on the Hertzian contact law and non-linear damping, is used for impact modelling. Simulations have shown that the flexibility reduces the severity of the impact. The same impact conditions result in much less energy loss than that of a rigid manipulator. It is also found that as long as some elastic motion is excited due to impact, the response is significantly different from that of the rigid case, even for relatively stiff links. © 1994 Academic Press Limited.