A Magnetically Actuated Variable Stiffness Manipulator Based on Deployable Shape Memory Polymer Springs

Theodosia Lourdes Thomas, Jonathan Bos, Juan J. Huaroto, Venkatasubraman Kalpathy Venkiteswaran, Sarthak Misra*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
88 Downloads (Pure)


Continuum manipulators have found several applications in surgical interventions like endoscopy, laparoscopy, and as end-effectors for surgical robots. Continuum manipulators coupled with magnetic actuation can be precisely maneuvered inside the human body. Recently, variable stiffness manipulators (VSMs) have been introduced for enhanced dexterity and safe navigation. This study presents a new design of a magnetically actuated VSM based on shape memory polymer (SMP) springs. The VSM has a silicone backbone enclosed within a spring made of SMP that can change in length with stiffness change that is triggered by Joule heating. The stiffness and thermal characteristics of the VSM are studied using analytical models and experiments. Subsequently, a one-segment VSM and a two-segment VSM having outer diameters of 9 and 10 mm and lengths of 15 and 25 mm, respectively, capable of extending to four times their length are designed. The VSM can be deployed in a compact form and extended to achieve variable bending curvatures in soft and rigid states, which can facilitate instrument insertion and reduce operation invasiveness. Potential clinical applications are demonstrated by incorporating miniature camera, biopsy tool, and laser optical fiber in the working channel of the VSM and coupled with robotic magnetic actuation.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalAdvanced Intelligent Systems
Early online date16 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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