The development of safe and dependable robots for physical human-robot interaction is actually changing the way robot are designed introducing several new technological issues. Outstanding examples are the adoption of soft covers and compliant transmissions or the definition of motion control laws that allow a compliant behavior in reaction to possible collisions, while preserving accuracy and performance during the motion in the free space. In this scenario, a growing interest is devoted to the study of variable stiffness joints. With the aim of improving the compactness and the flexibility of existing mechanical solutions, a variable stiffness joint based on the use of compliant flexures is investigated. The proposed concept allows the implementation of a desired stiffness profile and range along with the selection of the maximum joint deflection. In particular, this paper reports a systematic procedure for the synthesis of a fully-compliant mechanism used as a non-linear transmission, together with a preliminary design of the overall joint.

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