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Creators/Authors contains: "Do, Brian H."

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  1. To facilitate sensing and physical interaction in remote and/or constrained environments, high-extension, lightweight robot manipulators are easier to transport and reach substantially further than traditional serial chain manipulators. We propose a novel planar 3-degree-of-freedom manipulator that achieves low weight and high extension through the use of a pair of spooling bistable tapes, commonly used in self-retracting tape measures, which are pinched together to form a reconfigurable revolute joint. The pinching action flattens the tapes to produce a localized bending region, resulting in a revolute joint that can change its orientation by cable tension and its location on the tapes though friction-driven movement of the pinching mechanism. We present the design, implementation, kinematic modeling, stiffness behavior of the revolute joint, and quasi-static performance of this manipulator. In particular, we demonstrate the ability of the manipulator to reach specified targets in free space, reach a 2D target with various orientations, and maintain an end-effector angle or stationary bending point while changing the other. The long-term goal of this work is to integrate the manipulator with an aerial robot to enable more capable aerial manipulation.
  2. Soft robot serial chain manipulators with the capability for growth, stiffness control, and discrete joints have the potential to approach the dexterity of traditional robot arms, while improving safety, lowering cost, and providing an increased workspace, with potential application in home environments. This paper presents an approach for design optimization of such robots to reach specified targets while minimizing the number of discrete joints and thus construction and actuation costs. We define a maximum number of allowable joints, as well as hardware constraints imposed by the materials and actuation available for soft growing robots, and we formulate and solve an optimization problem to output a planar robot design, i.e., the total number of potential joints and their locations along the robot body, which reaches all the desired targets, avoids known obstacles, and maximizes the workspace. We demonstrate a process to rapidly construct the resulting soft growing robot design. Finally, we use our algorithm to evaluate the ability of this design to reach new targets and demonstrate the algorithm's utility as a design tool to explore robot capabilities given various constraints and objectives.
  3. Inflated continuum robots are promising for a variety of navigation tasks, but controlling their motion with a small number of actuators is challenging. These inflated beam robots tend to buckle under compressive loads, producing extremely tight local curvature at difficult-to-control buckle point locations. In this paper, we present an inflated beam robot that uses distributed stiffness changing sections enabled by positive pressure layer jamming to control or prevent buckling. Passive valves are actuated by an electromagnet carried by an electromechanical device that travels inside the main inflated beam robot body. The valves themselves require no external connections or wiring, allowing the distributed stiffness control to be scaled to long beam lengths. Multiple layer jamming elements are stiffened simultaneously to achieve global stiffening, allowing the robot to support greater cantilevered loads and longer unsupported lengths. Local stiffening, achieved by leaving certain layer jamming elements unstiffened, allows the robot to produce "virtual joints" that dynamically change the robot kinematics. Implementing these stiffening strategies is compatible with growth through tip eversion and tendon steering, and enables a number of new capabilities for inflated beam robots and tip-everting robots.
  4. Continuum and soft robots can leverage routed actuation schemes to take on useful shapes with few actuated degrees of freedom. The addition of vine-like growth to soft continuum robots opens up possibilities for creating deployable structures from compact packages and allowing manipulation and grasping of objects in cluttered or difficult-to-navigate environments. Helical shapes, with constant curvature and torsion, provide a starting point for the shapes and actuation strategies required for such applications. Building on the geometric and static solutions for continuum robot kinematics given constant curvature assumptions, we develop a static model of helical actuation and present the implementation and validation of this model. We also discuss the forces applied by the soft robot when wrapped around an object that deforms the static shape, allowing a quantification of grasping capabilities.