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Variable stiffness actuators have been developed based on different design solutions which can be arranged into two groups: antagonistic and series design. In both the cases two actuation units are combined with passive elastic elements to adjust both the stiffness and the equilibrium position of the actuated joint. To regulate the stiffness, mechanical work is required to be done which depending on the design principle of the actuator results in certain energy consumption. In this paper different variable stiffness design approaches with different types of springs (linear, quadratic, exponential and cubic) are analyzed and compared with respect to the energy required to regulate the stiffness. The results give some insights about the design parameters which mostly affect the energy consumption for the stiffness adjustment. In this work, it is shown that among different design and spring arrangements, the variable stiffness in series design which uses linear springs with constant pretension, requires the minimum energy consumption to adjust the stiffness.

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