This work develops and examines design strategies for reducing the stiffness of 3D-printed compliant mechanisms. The three aspects of a flexure that determine its stiffness are well known: material, boundary conditions, and geometry. In a highly constrained design space however, flexure stiffness may remain unacceptably high even while arriving at the limits of design constraints. In this work, changes to geometry and boundary conditions are examined that lead to drastically reduced stiffness behavior without changing flexure thickness, width, or length. Changes to geometry can result in very complex mechanisms. However, 3D printing enables almost arbitrarily complex geometries. This dissertation presents three design strategies for stiffness reduction: static balancing, lattice flexures, and compound joints. Static balancing refers to changes in the boundary conditions that result in a near-zero net change in potential energy storage over the useful deflection of a flexure. In this work, I present a method for static balancing that utilizes non-dimensional parameters to quickly synthesize a joint design with stiffness reduced by nearly 90%. This method is not only simple and straightforward, it is applicable to a wide range of flexure topologies. The only requirements on the joint to be balanced are that it must be approximated as a pin joint and torsion spring, and it must have a well-understood stiffness when subjected to a compressive load. Lattice flexures result from modifications to geometry that reduce cross-sectional area without changing width or thickness. However, the reduction in stiffness is greater than the reduction in cross sectional area. This can occur because the bending load is now carried by beams partially in torsion. Two lattice geometries are proposed and analyzed in detail using analytic and numeric techniques. It is shown that the off-axis stiffness behavior of lattice flexures can be better than that of conventional blade flexures while bending stiffness is reduced >60%. Compound joints are those that consist of arrays of flexures arranged co-axially. This arrangement provides increased range of motion, generally decreased stiffness, and improved stability. Additionally, a method is herein presented to reduce the parasitic center shift of a compound joint to nearly zero at a specified deflection. The penultimate chapter demonstrates how all three strategies can be used together, and includes new results to facilitate their combination.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





compliant mechanisms, static balancing, lattice flexures, compound joints, load-dependent stiffness, 3D printing