Unlike “classical” industrial robots, collaborative robots, known as cobots, implement a compliant behavior. Cobots ensure a safe force control in a physical interaction scenario within unknown environments. In this paper, we propose to make serial robots intrinsically compliant to guarantee safe physical human–robot interaction (pHRI), via our novel designed device called V2SOM, which stands for Variable Stiffness Safety-Oriented Mechanism. As its name indicates, V2SOM aims at making physical human–robot interaction safe, thanks to its two basic functioning modes—high stiffness mode and low stiffness mode. The first mode is employed for normal operational routines. In contrast, the low stiffness mode is suitable for the safe absorption of any potential blunt shock with a human. The transition between the two modes is continuous to maintain a good control of the V2SOM-based cobot in the case of a fast collision. V2SOM presents a high inertia decoupling capacity which is a necessary condition for safe pHRI without compromising the robot’s dynamic performances. Two safety criteria of pHRI were considered for performance evaluations, namely, the impact force (ImpF) criterion and the head injury criterion (HIC) for, respectively, the external and internal damage evaluation during blunt shocks.
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