Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Electrical and Computer Engineering


Dr. Rajni V. Patel


Since the concept of the Concentric-Tube Robot (CTR) was proposed in 2006, CTRs have been a popular research topic in the field of surgical robotics. The unique mechanical design of this robot allows it to navigate through narrow channels in the human anatomy and operate in highly constrained environments. It is therefore likely to become the next generation of surgical robots to overcome the challenges that cannot be addressed by current technologies. In CSTAR, we have had ongoing work over the past several years aimed at developing novel techniques and technologies for CTRs. This thesis describes the contributions made in this context, focusing primarily on topics such as modeling, sensorization, and control of CTRs. Prior to this work, one of the main challenges in CTRs was to develop a kinematic model that achieves a balance between the numerical accuracy and computational efficiency for surgical applications. In this thesis, a fast kinematic model of CTRs is proposed, which can be solved at a comparatively fast rate (0.2 ms) with minimal loss of accuracy (0.1 mm) for a 3-tube CTR. A Jacobian matrix is derived based on this model, leading to the development of a real-time trajectory tracking controller for CTRs. For tissue-robot interactions, a force-rejection controller is proposed for position control of CTRs under time-varying force disturbances. In contrast to rigid-link robots, instability of position control could be caused by non-unique solutions to the forward kinematics of CTRs. This phenomenon is modeled and analyzed, resulting in design criteria that can ensure kinematic stability of a CTR in its entire workspace. Force sensing is another major difficulty for CTRs. To address this issue, commercial force/torque sensors (Nano43, ATI Industrial Automation, United States) are integrated into one of our CTR prototypes. These force/torque sensors are replaced by Fiber-Bragg Grating (FBG) sensors that are helically-wrapped and embedded in CTRs. A strain-force calculation algorithm is proposed, to convert the reflected wavelength of FBGs into force measurements with 0.1 N force resolution at 100 Hz sampling rate. In addition, this thesis reports on our innovations in prototyping drive units for CTRs. Three designs of CTR prototypes are proposed, the latest one being significantly more compact and cost efficient in comparison with most designs in the literature. All of these contributions have brought this technology a few steps closer to being used in operating rooms. Some of the techniques and technologies mentioned above are not merely limited to CTRs, but are also suitable for problems arising in other types of surgical robots, for example, for sensorizing da Vinci surgical instruments for force sensing (see Appendix A).

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