Adaptable compliance or variable stiffness for robotic applications

Bram Vanderborght, Thomas Sugar, Dirk Lefeber

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Exciting new robots are being developed that will operate in a different environment from traditional industrial factories or research laboratories. Researchers are working worldwide to create robots that are integrated into our daily lives. For the advancement of these new robots, compliant, safe, and new actuators are one of the important issues turning energy into safe motion. The biological counterpart is the muscle tendon structure that has functional performance characteristics and a neuromechanical control systemthat has far more superior capabilities. The superior power to weight ratio, force to weight ratio, and sensing characteristics limit the development of machines that can match motion, safety, and energy efficiency of a human or other animal. One of the key differences of biological systems is their adaptable compliance or variable stiffness compared with the traditional stiff electrical drives used for the standard industrial robotic applications, which require accurate, reference-trajectory tracking.More and more applications such as robots in close human or robot proximity, legged autonomous robots, and rehabilitation devices and prostheses demand a different set of design specifications, for which the use of compliant actuators can be beneficial as compared with the traditional stiff actuation schemes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-9
Number of pages2
JournalIEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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