This paper presents the analysis and optimization of a series-elastic actuator (SEA) for jumping with an articulated leg. Analytical and simulation results are validated with experimental results from a prototype leg. Similar to the series-elastic elements in muscles, an SEA decouples the dynamic limitations of a DC actuator from the joint, allowing larger liftoff velocities than with a directly driven joint. Detailed analysis of the complex dynamic SEA response during the thrust phase yields insights into its performance. The maximum impulse occurs when the motor speed is approximately half the no-load speed at the moment of peak motor torque. This proposed criterion is used to develop a simple analytical design equation for an optimal SEA.

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