In this work, we detail the design, fabrication, and initial modeling of a compact, high-strength series elastic element designed for use in snake robots. The spring achieves its elasticity by torsionally shearing a rubber elastomer that is bonded to two rigid plates, and it is able to achieve mechanical compliance and energy storage that is an order of magnitude greater than traditional springs. Its novel design features a tapered conical cross-section that creates uniform shear stress in the rubber, improving the ultimate strength. Tests show that the torque-displacement profile of these springs is approximately linear, and initial results are reported on creating more accurate models that account for the element’s hysteresis and viscoelastic properties. Low-bandwidth force control is demonstrated by measuring the element’s torsional deflection to estimate the torque output of one of our snake robot modules.

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