Linear-motion compliant mechanisms have generally been developed for small displacement applications. The objective of the thesis is to provide a basis for improved large-displacement linear-motion compliant mechanisms (LLCMs). One of the challenges in developing large-displacement compliant mechanisms is the apparent performance tradeoff between displacement and off-axis stiffness. In order to facilitate the evaluation, comparison, and optimization of the performance of LLCMs, this work formulates and presents a set of metrics that evaluates displacement and off-axis stiffness. The metrics are non-dimensionalized and consist of the relevant characteristics that describe mechanism displacement, off-axis stiffness, actuation force, and size. Displacement is normalized by the footprint of the device. Transverse stiffness is normalized by a new performance characteristic called virtual axial stiffness. Torsional stiffness is normalized by a performance characteristic called the characteristic torque. Because large-displacement compliant mechanisms are often characterized by non-constant axial and off-axis stiffnesses, these normalized stiffness metrics are formulated to account for the variation of both axial and off-axis stiffness over the range of displacement. In pursuit of mechanisms with higher performance, this work also investigates the development of a new compliant mechanism element. It presents a pseudo-rigid-body model (PRBM) for rolling-contact compliant beams (RCC beams), a compliant element used in the RCC suspension. The loading conditions and boundary conditions for RCC beams can be simplified to an equivalent cantilever beam that has the same force-deflection characteristics as the RCC beam. Building on the PRBM for cantilever beams, this paper defines a model for the force-deflection relationship for RCC beams. Included in the definition of the RCC PRBM are the pseudo-rigid-body model parameters that determine the shape of the beam, the length of the corresponding pseudo-rigid-body links and the stiffness of the equivalent torsional spring. The behavior of the RCC beam is parameterized in terms of a single parameter defined as clearance, or the distance between the contact surfaces. The RCC beams exhibit a unique force-displacement curve where the force is inversely proportional to the clearance squared. The RCC suspension is modeled using the newly defined PRBM. The suspension exhibits unique performance, generating no resistance to axial motion while providing significant off-axis stiffness. The mechanism has a large range of travel and operates with frictionless motion due to the rolling-contact beams. In addition to functioning as a stand-alone linear-motion mechanism, the RCC suspension can be configured with other linear mechanisms in superposition to improve the off-axis stiffness of other mechanisms without affecting their axial resistance.



College and Department

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



Date Submitted


Document Type





compliant mechanisms, performance metrics, off-axis stiffness, rolling contact, linear suspension, linear motion, machine design, non-dimensional parameters