Compliant mechanisms are a class of mechanisms that achieve desired force and motion transmission tasks by undergoing elastic deformations as opposed to rigid-body displacements in the conventional rigid-link mechanisms. Most of the previously reported synthesis studies in compliant mechanisms related to either partially-compliant mechanisms or fully-compliant mechanisms with joint compliance. Methods developed for fully-compliant mechanisms with link compliance addressed the issue of topology generation for desired deflections at discrete points on the mechanism. This paper presents a new, first-principles based synthesis procedure for fully-compliant mechanisms with link compliance — that is, distributed-compliant mechanisms — for continuous shape change requirements in a particular segment of a mechanism.

The general approach presented in this paper for the synthesis of distributed compliant mechanisms is shown to be well suited for application in the design of adaptive structures, an emerging class of high-performance structural systems. The current trend in the design of adaptive structures is to embed structures with force or strain inducing “smart” materials to serve as distributed actuators. Potential advantages of using the distributed compliance scheme over the distributed actuation scheme in the design of adaptive structures include a significant reduction in the number of required actuators and controls.

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