Variable Impedance Actuators: a Review

Bram Vanderborght, Alin Albu-Schäffer, Antonio Bicchi, Etienne Burdet, Darwin Caldwell, Raffaella Carloni, Manuel Catalano, Eiberger O., Friedl W., Gowrishankar Ganesh, Manolo Garabini, Markus Grebenstein, Giorgio Grioli, Sami Haddadin, Matteo Laffranchi, Hoppner H., Amir Jafari, Dirk Lefeber, Florian Petit, Stefano StramigioliNikolas Tsagarakis, Michael Van Damme, Ronald Van Ham, Ludo V. Visser, Sebastian Wolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

723 Citations (Scopus)


Variable Impedance Actuators (VIA) have received increasing attention in recent years as many novel applications involving interactions with an unknown and dynamic environment including humans require actuators with dynamics that are not well-achieved by classical stiff actuators. This paper presents an overview of the different VIAs developed and proposes a classification based on the principles through which the variable stiffness and damping are achieved. The main classes are active impedance by control, inherent compliance and damping actuators, inertial actuators, and combinations of them, which are then further divided into subclasses. This classification allows for designers of new devices to orientate and take inspiration and users of VIA's to be guided in the design and implementation process for their targeted application.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1601-1614
Number of pages14
JournalRobotics and Autonomous Systems
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2013


  • Variable Impedance Actuators
  • Soft Robotics


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