IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pp. 6470–6476, 2017
Tendon-driven continuum robots possess versatile application capabilities and have a robust design. The actuation of such robots with non-straight tendons that wrap around the backbone, described by a variable function, offers a lot of untapped potentials. While it has been shown that these continuum robots are able to take up complex shapes using only one actuated segment, the merits of non-straight tendon routing have not been quantified in terms of workspace and motion. In this paper, we show that one additional helically routed tendon can greatly benefit the robot's reachable workspace. For instance, the reachable workspace of a one-segment robot with 3 conventional straight tendons increases by 400 % by adding one helically routed tendon. Furthermore, the dexterity of such a continuum robot is improved, i.e. motion sequences to avoid obstacles or to twine an object for grasping. For the first time, the potential of tendon-driven continuum robots with two segments and helically routed tendons is investigated. The general findings on the merits of helical tendon routing are supported with both simulation and experimental results.