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The passive, mechanical adaptation of slender, deformable robots to their environment, whether the robot be made of hard materials or soft ones, makes them desirable as tools for medical procedures. Their reduced physical compliance can provide a form of embodied intelligence that allows the natural dynamics of interaction between the robot and its environment to guide the evolution of the combined robot-environment system. To design these systems, the problems of analysis, design optimization, control, and motion planning remain of great importance because, in general, the advantages afforded by increased mechanical compliance must be balanced against penalties such as slower dynamics, increased difficulty in the design of control systems, and greater kinematic uncertainty. The models that form the basis of these problems should be reasonably accurate yet not prohibitively expensive to formulate and solve. In this article, the state-of-the-art modeling techniques for continuum robots are reviewed and cast in a common language. Classical theories of mechanics are used to outline formal guidelines for the selection of appropriate degrees of freedom in models of continuum robots, both in terms of number and of quality, for geometrically nonlinear models built from the general family of one-dimensional rod models of continuum mechanics. Consideration ismore »
Numerous soft and continuum robotic manipulators have demonstrated their potential for compliant operation in highly unstructured environments or near people. Despite their recent popularity, modeling of their smooth bending deformation remains a challenge. For soft continuum manipulators, the widespread, constant curvature approach to modeling is inadequate for modeling some deformations that occur in practice, such as combined bending and twisting deformations. In this paper, we extend the classical Cosserat rod approach to model a variable-length, pneumatic soft continuum arm. We model the deformation of a pneumatically driven soft continuum manipulator, and the model is then compared against experimental data collected from a three degree of freedom, pneumatically actuated, soft continuum manipulator. The model shows good agreement in capturing the overall behavior of the bending deformation, with mean Euclidean error at the tip of the robot of 2.48 cm for a 22 cm long robot. In addition, the model shows good numerical stability for simulating long duration computations.