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In contrast to common rigid or actively compliant systems, Variable Stiffness Arms are capable of storing potential energy in their joint and convert it into kinetic energy, respectively speed. This capability is well known from humans and is a good example for the outstanding performance of biological systems. However, only since some years intrinsic compliance is considered as a key feature and not a drawback in robot design. Therefore, only very little work has been carried out for exploiting the natural dynamics of elastic arms for such explosive motion sequences. In this paper, we treat the problem of how to optimally achieve maximum link velocity at a given final time for Variable Stiffness Arms. We show that solutions to this problem lead to excitation motions, which enable the robot to move on the link side at much higher speed on the motor side. In particular, the robot uses the dynamic transfer of elastic joint energy into link side kinetic energy for further acceleration. In our work we consider the practically relevant input and state constraints, and give experimental verification of the developed methods on the new DLR Hand-Arm system.
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