While compact folding is desirable for applications such as deployable mechanisms, achieving this with compliant mechanisms can be challenging. One reason for this is that the relaxed and stressed states of the mechanism are known and the loads producing the transition are unknown. The relaxed state is determined by the desired, deployed state and the stressed geometry is determined by the storage space. Approaches for solving this problem often require significant software development or cannot address problems in three dimensions. To address this problem, this work describes a method for designing 3D compliant mechanisms that can fold compactly. If the stressed and relaxed geometry are specified, an algebraic method can be used to find loads which best approximate the desired geometry. A least-squares approach is used to minimize error. A simplification of this method in two dimensions is also described. To further enhance the accuracy of the shape approximation, a method for varying the beam bending stiffness is described. For comparison, an inverse finite-element solver was implemented and paired with an optimizer and used to solve the same problem. Both methods were used to design a compliant, compactly folding beam. These results were compared with results from a commercial, finite-element software package.

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