Soft robots offer a number of advantages over traditional rigid robots in applications such as minimally invasive surgery, where safety and dexterity are required. In previous works, the STIFF-FLOP manipulator has been introduced as a new concept of using soft materials to develop endoscopic tools with high dexterity and intrinsic safety. However, due to its inherent low stiffness, the ability to generate higher forces and stability when required remains to be further explored. In the state-of-the-art technology, there is no optimal solution that satisfies all the desired requirements in terms of miniaturized dimensions, free lumen for passing tools up to the tip, stiffness variation, and dexterity. In this paper, we compare different variable stiffness technologies and present a novel design that comprises a stiffening system based either on a fiber jamming (FJ) transition or low-melting-point alloys (LMPAs) that can be embedded in the manipulator to widen its applicability by increasing its stability and load bearing capability. The two approaches have been evaluated and compared in terms of variable stiffness capability and dexterity. The results suggest that the LMPA-based solution significantly outperforms previous approaches using similar designs with a higher stiffness variation combined with a good degree of flexibility, while the solution based on FJ guarantees fast transition times and fully satisfies the required safety measures.

Variable Stiffness Technologies for Soft Robotics: A Comparative Approach for the STIFF-FLOP Manipulator

Niccolo Pagliarani
;
Luca Arleo;Stefano Albini;Matteo Cianchetti
2023-01-01

Abstract

Soft robots offer a number of advantages over traditional rigid robots in applications such as minimally invasive surgery, where safety and dexterity are required. In previous works, the STIFF-FLOP manipulator has been introduced as a new concept of using soft materials to develop endoscopic tools with high dexterity and intrinsic safety. However, due to its inherent low stiffness, the ability to generate higher forces and stability when required remains to be further explored. In the state-of-the-art technology, there is no optimal solution that satisfies all the desired requirements in terms of miniaturized dimensions, free lumen for passing tools up to the tip, stiffness variation, and dexterity. In this paper, we compare different variable stiffness technologies and present a novel design that comprises a stiffening system based either on a fiber jamming (FJ) transition or low-melting-point alloys (LMPAs) that can be embedded in the manipulator to widen its applicability by increasing its stability and load bearing capability. The two approaches have been evaluated and compared in terms of variable stiffness capability and dexterity. The results suggest that the LMPA-based solution significantly outperforms previous approaches using similar designs with a higher stiffness variation combined with a good degree of flexibility, while the solution based on FJ guarantees fast transition times and fully satisfies the required safety measures.
2023
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11382/552951
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