How the Predictable Precision of Small Flexible Devices Helps to Ensure the Safety of Products of Any Size

Derek Muller of Veritasium (previously) visited with Professor Larry Howell of the Compliant Mechanism Research group at Brigham Young University to learn more about kinematic structures, flexible jointless shapes that effectively displace incoming energy by a purposeful and predictable design. These mechanisms are used in dry goods, tools, police enforcement gear, urban design, mechanical engines and in space. There’s even a compliant mechanism to ensure that a nuclear weapon isn’t accidentally fired.

Muller summed all he learned with a list of eight things that begin with the letter “P”.

What I learned about compliant mechanisms I summarize in the 8 Ps of compliant mechanisms:

1. Part count (reduced by having flexible parts instead of springs, hinges)
2. Productions processes (many, new, different enabled by compliant designs)
3. Price (reduced by fewer parts and different production processes)
4. Precise Motion (no backlash, less wear, friction)
5. Performance (no outgassing, doesn’t require lubricant)
6. Proportions (reduced through different production processes)
7. Portability (lightweight due to simpler, reduced part count designs)
8. Predictability (devices are reliable over a long period of time)

These handy devices come in a variety of sizes and can be made of titanium, steel or plastic. They can even be 3D printed.