Redundant constraints are generally avoided in mechanism design because they can lead to binding or loss in expected mobility. However, in certain distributed-compliance flexure mechanism geometries, this problem is mitigated by the phenomenon of elastic averaging. Elastic averaging is a design paradigm that, in contrast with exact constraint design principles, makes deliberate and effective use of redundant constraints to improve performance and robustness. The principle of elastic averaging and its advantages are illustrated in this paper by means of a three-beam parallelogram flexure mechanism, which represents an overconstrained geometry. In a lumped-compliance configuration, this mechanism is prone to binding in the presence of nominal manufacturing and assembly errors. However, with an increasing degree of distributed-compliance, the mechanism is shown to become more tolerant to such geometric imperfections. The nonlinear elastokinematic effect in the constituent beams is shown to play an important role in analytically predicting the consequences of overconstraint and provides a mathematical basis for elastic averaging. A generalized beam constraint model is used for these predictions so that varying degrees of distributed compliance are captured using a single geometric parameter. The closed-form analytical results are validated against finite element analysis, as well as experimental measurements.

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