Compliant mechanisms, which can be integrally machined and without assembly, are well suited as joints for continuum robots (CRs), but how to incorporate the advantages of the compliant mechanism into the arm design is a key issue in this work. In this paper, a novel type of flexible spherical-hinged (FSH) joint composed of tetrahedron elements with a fixed virtual remote center of motion (RCM) at the bottom is proposed, and then extended to the CR and end-effector. In the arm design, the error compensation principle is used to offset the parasitic motion of the CR under external load (pressure and torque) and improve the bending and torsional isotropy of the arm through different series combinations, and then the stiffness model of the FSH joint and the statics model of the CR are developed using the 3D chain pseudo-rigid body model (3D-CPRBM) and tested. The results show that the 3D-CPRBM can effectively predict the deformation of the FSH joint and the CR. Moreover, the maximum standard deviation of the bending angle of the FSH joint in each direction is only 0.26 deg, the repeatable positioning accuracy of the CR can reach 0.5 deg, and the end-effector has good gripping ability and self-adaptive capability.
Journal of Mechanisms and Robotics Open Issues