Doctoral Dissertations

Orcid ID

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Mechanical Engineering

Major Professor

Daniel C. Rucker

Committee Members

Jindong Tan, Brett G. Compton, Jessica Burgner-Kahrs


Continuum robots, which are bio-inspired ’trunk-like’ robots, are characterized for their inherent compliance and range of motion. One of the key challenges in continuum robotics research is developing robots with sufficient strength and stability without adding additional weight or complexity to the design. The research conducted in this dissertation encompasses design and modeling strategies that address these challenges in strength and stability. This work improves three continuum robot actuation paradigms: (1) tendon-driven continuum robots (TDCR), (2) concentric tube robots (CTR), and (3) concentric push-pull robots (CPPR). The first chapter of contribution covers strategies for improving strength in TDCRs. The payload capacity and torsional stiffness of the robot can be improved by leveraging the geometry of the backbone design and tendon routing, with design choices experimentally validated on a robot prototype. The second chapter covers a new bending actuator, concentric precurved bellows (CPB), that are based upon CTR actuation. The high torsional stiffness of bellows geometry virtually eliminates the torsional compliance instability found in CTRs. Two bellows designs are developed for 3D printing and the mechanical properties of these designs are characterized through experiments on prototypes and in static finite element analysis. A torsionally rigid kinematic model is derived and validated on 3D printed prototypes. The third chapter of contribution covers the development and validation of a mechanics-based CPPR kinematics model. CPPRs are constructed from concentrically nested, asymmetrically patterned tubes that are fixed together at their distal tips. Relative translations between the tubes induces bending shapes from the robot. The model expands the possible design space of CPPRs by enabling the modeling of external loads, non-planar bending shapes, and CPPRs with more than two tubes. The model is validated on prototypes in loaded and unloaded experiments.

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