We propose using series elastic actuation (SEA) in micro mechanical devices to achieve precise control of the interaction forces. Using μSEA for force control removes the need for high-precision force sensors/actuators and allows for accurate force control through simple position control of the deflection of a compliant coupling element. Since the performance of a μSEA is highly dependent on the design of this compliant coupling element, we employ a design optimization framework to design this element. In particular, we propose a compliant, under-actuated half-pantograph mechanism as a feasible kinematic structure for this coupling element. Then, we consider multiple design objectives to optimize the performance of this compliant mechanism through dimensional synthesis, formulating an optimization problem to study the trade-offs between these design criteria. We optimize the directional manipulability of the mechanism, simultaneously with its task space stiffness, using a Pareto-front based framework. We select an optimal design by studying solutions on the Pareto-front curve and considering the linearity of the stiffness along the actuation direction as a secondary design criteria. The optimized mechanism possesses high manipulability and low stiffness along the movement direction of the actuator; hence, achieves a large stroke with high force resolution. At the same time, the mechanism has low manipulability and high stiffness along the direction perpendicular to the actuator motion, ensuring good disturbance rejection characteristics. We model the behavior of this compliant mechanism and utilize this model to synthesize a controller for μSEA to study its dynamic response. Simulated closed loop performance of the μSEA with optimized coupling element indicates that force references can be tracked without significant overshoot and with low tracking error (about 1.1%) even for periodic reference signals.

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