Abstract

Studies on the topology optimization of linkage mechanisms have thus far focused mainly on mechanism synthesis considering only kinematic characteristics describing a desired path or motion. Here, we propose a new topology optimization method that synthesizes a linkage mechanism considering not only kinematic but also compliance (K&C) characteristics simultaneously, as compliance characteristics can also significantly affect the linkage mechanism performance; compliance characteristics dictate how elastic components, such as bushings in a vehicle suspension, are deformed by external forces. To achieve our objective, we use the spring-connected rigid block model (SBM) developed earlier for mechanism synthesis considering only kinematic characteristics, but we make it suitable for the simultaneous consideration of K&C characteristics during mechanism synthesis by making its zero-length springs multifunctional. Variable-stiffness springs were used to identify the mechanism kinematic configuration only, but now in the proposed approach, they serve to determine not only the mechanism kinematic configuration but also the compliance element distribution. In particular, the ground-anchoring springs used to anchor a linkage mechanism to the ground are functionalized to simulate actual bushings as well as to identify the desired linkage kinematic chain. After the proposed formulation and numerical implementation are presented, case studies are considered. In particular, the effectiveness of the proposed method is demonstrated with a simplified two-dimensional vehicle suspension design problem. This study is expected to pave the way to advance the topology optimization method for general linkage mechanisms whenever K&C characteristics must be simultaneously considered for mechanism synthesis.

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