Researchers in the field of optimal synthesis of compliant mechanisms have been working to develop design tools that yield distributed compliant devices from a continuum design domain. However, it has been demonstrated in the literature that much of this work has resulted in mechanisms that localize compliance rather than distribute it as desired. Inaccurate representation of the stiffness or strain energy due to the existence of point flexures in the mechanism was identified as the cause of this behavior by early researchers. To eliminate this cause, several approaches have been tried to improve the design of distributed mechanisms, for example additional constraints on the optimization process, alternate parameterization techniques that avoid point flexures and additional objective functions evaluated as Pareto sets. In this paper, the authors further investigate the fundamental reasons for the prevalence of lumped designs. Representative simple compliant mechanisms are investigated analytically and numerically and the influence of various additional objectives on the final design is evaluated. To extrapolate these results to more complex mechanisms, examples are constructed that show evidence that a preference remains for lumped compliance, despite the countermeasures that have been applied. Pareto compatibility analysis developed by the authors is used to analyze the influence of various objectives on the distributive nature of the final design. These conditions that influence the distribution of compliance fall into two basic categories: those specific to the numerical methods applied and those of purely mechanical (i.e. fundamental) nature. This work will examine conditions of the latter type and will demonstrate that such a preference for lumped compliance exists. This preference is shown to be contained in the classic objectives; flexibility and stiffness. Based on these results, greater insight into the optimization process is gained and applied to improve the search for distributed compliant mechanisms.

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