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Title: Designing continuous equilibrium structures that counteract gravity in any orientation

This paper presents a framework that can transform reconfigurable structures into systems with continuous equilibrium. The method involves adding optimized springs that counteract gravity to achieve a system with a nearly flat potential energy curve. The resulting structures can move or reconfigure effortlessly through their kinematic paths and remain stable in all configurations. Remarkably, our framework can design systems that maintain continuous equilibrium during reorientation, so that a system maintains a nearly flat potential energy curve even when it is rotated with respect to a global reference frame. This ability to reorient while maintaining continuous equilibrium greatly enhances the versatility of deployable and reconfigurable structures by ensuring they remain efficient and stable for use in different scenarios. We apply our framework to several planar four-bar linkages and explore how spring placement, spring types, and system kinematics affect the optimized potential energy curves. Next, we show the generality of our method with more complex linkage systems that carry external masses and with a three-dimensional origami-inspired deployable structure. Finally, we adopt a traditional structural engineering approach to give insight on practical issues related to the stiffness, reduced actuation forces, and locking of continuous equilibrium systems. Physical prototypes support the computational results and demonstrate the effectiveness of our method. The framework introduced in this work enables the stable, and efficient actuation of reconfigurable structures under gravity, regardless of their global orientation. These principles have the potential to revolutionize the design of robotic limbs, retractable roofs, furniture, consumer products, vehicle systems, and more.

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Nature Publishing Group
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Scientific Reports
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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