The classical approach to decrease the energy consumption of high-speed robots is by lowering the moving elements mass in order to have a lightweight structure. Even if this allows reducing the energy consumed, the lightweight architecture affects the robot stiffness, worsening the accuracy of the mechanism. Recently, variable stiffness actuators (VSAs) have been used in order to reduce the energy consumption of high-speed pick-and-place robots. The idea is to smartly tune online the stiffness of VSA springs so that the robot is put in near a resonance mode, thus considerably decreasing the energy consumption during fast pseudo-periodic pick-and-place motions. However, the serial configuration of springs and motors in the VSA leads to uncontrolled robot deflections at high-speeds and, thus, to a poor positioning accuracy of its end-effector.
In order to avoid these drawbacks and to increase the energy efficiency while ensuring the accuracy, this paper proposes the use of parallel arrangement of variable stiffness springs (VSS) and motors, combined with an energy-based optimal trajectory planner. The VSS are used as energy storage for carrying out the reduction of the energy consumption and their parallel configuration with the motors ensure the load balancing at high-speed without losing the accuracy of the robot. Simulations of the suggested approach on a five-bar mechanism are performed and show the increase on energy efficiency.