Design and Control of Concentric-Tube Robots

IEEE Trans Robot. 2010 Apr 1;26(2):209-225. doi: 10.1109/TRO.2009.2035740.


A novel approach toward construction of robots is based on a concentric combination of precurved elastic tubes. By rotation and extension of the tubes with respect to each other, their curvatures interact elastically to position and orient the robot's tip, as well as to control the robot's shape along its length. In this approach, the flexible tubes comprise both the links and the joints of the robot. Since the actuators attach to the tubes at their proximal ends, the robot itself forms a slender curve that is well suited for minimally invasive medical procedures. This paper demonstrates the potential of this technology. Design principles are presented and a general kinematic model incorporating tube bending and torsion is derived. Experimental demonstration of real-time position control using this model is also described.