The paper introduces tape springs as elements of fully compliant mechanisms. The localized folds of tape springs serve as compact revolute joints, with a very small radius and large range of motion, and the unfolded straight segments serve as links. By exploiting a tape spring’s ability to function as both links and joints, we present a new method of realizing fully compliant mechanisms with further simplification in their construction. Tape springs, typically found in carpenter tape rules, are thin-walled strips having constant thickness, zero longitudinal curvature, and a constant transverse curvature. The paper presents a closed-loop tape spring mechanism. By representing its folds as idealized revolute joints and its variable length links as sliding joints connecting rigid links, we present a modified Gruebler’s equation to determine its kinematic and idle degrees of freedom. To realize practical utility of tape spring mechanisms, we propose a simple actuation scheme incorporating shape memory alloy (SMA) wire actuators and successfully demonstrate its performance with a proof-of-concept prototype. The paper also presents potential applications for actuated tape spring mechanisms including a large displacement translational mechanism, planar positioning mechanisms, bi-stable, multi-stable, and variable stiffness mechanisms.

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