In the video above, Dr Derek Mueller from Veritasium takes us into the world of compliant mechanisms.

What are compliant mechanisms?

In mechanical engineering, compliant mechanisms are flexible mechanisms that transfer an input force and displacement at one port to an output force and displacement at another port through elastic body deformation. These may be monolithic (single-piece) or jointless structures.

Essentially, they are machines that change their shape to accomplish a task, rather than having several moving parts which are attached together.

And you’ve all used compliant mechanisms before, probably without realising it. Simple objects like paperclips are an example, although as the video shows, it can create more advanced objects like microscopic switches.

According to the video, they have several advantages over machines with interlocking moving parts. These include the 8 P’s of Compliant Mechanisms:

  1. Part count: reduced by having flexible parts instead of springs, hinges
  2. Productions processes: many, new, different enabled by compliant designs
  3. Price reduced: by fewer parts and different production processes
  4. Precise Motion: no backlash, less wear, friction
  5. Performance: no outgassing, doesn’t require lubricant
  6. Proportions: reduced through different production processes
  7. Portability: lightweight due to simpler, reduced part count designs
  8. Predictability: devices are reliable over a long period of time

I’d seen some of these designs in the world before without realising what they were, especially the switches. However, I had always thought that bending any material would quickly result in it breaking, based on my own experience bending plastic past its point of failure.

Now, I can see the potential for these mechanisms forming part of a larger repetoire of new manufacturing techniques, especially those which take advantage of 3D printing.

The P which most excites me is “Price Reduced”, specifically the example given where parts could be extruded as a whole unit and immediately cut as required, like pasta produced in a factory.

You can see a number of the wonderful mechanisms created by Prof Larry Howell from the Compliant Mechanisms Research group at Brigham Young University in their other video here:

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Chief Editor of Ideatovalue.com and Founder / CEO of Improvides Innovation Consulting. Coach / Speaker / Author / TEDx Speaker / Voted as the world's #5 Innovation blogger in 2016, I help individuals and companies build their creativity and innovation capabilities, so you can develop the next breakthrough idea which customers love.