Imperial College London

Angus B. Clark

Faculty of EngineeringDyson School of Design Engineering

Research Postgraduate



a.clark17 Website




2nd Floor OfficeDyson BuildingSouth Kensington Campus





Publication Type

10 results found

Clark AB, Liow L, Rojas N, 2021, Force evaluation of tendon routing for underactuated grasping, Journal of Mechanical Design, Vol: 143, Pages: 1-9, ISSN: 1050-0472

While the modeling analysis of the kinetostatic behavior of underactuated tendon-driven robotic fingers has been largely addressed in the literature, tendon routing is often not considered by these theoretical models. The tendon routing path plays a fundamental role in defining joint torques, and subsequently, the force vectors produced by the phalanges. However, dynamic tendon behavior is difficult to predict and is influenced by many external factors including tendon friction, the shape of the grasped object, the initial pose of the fingers, and finger contact points. In this paper, we present an experimental comparison of the force performance of nine fingers, with different tendon routing configurations. We use the concept of force-isotropy, in which forces are equal and distributed on each phalanx as the optimum condition for an adaptive grasp. Our results show only some of the finger designs surveyed exhibited a partial adaptive behavior, showing distributed force for the proximal and distal phalanxes throughout grasping cycles, while other routings resulted in only a single phalanx remaining in contact with the object.

Journal article

Clark AB, Mathivannan V, Rojas N, 2021, A continuum manipulator for open-source surgical robotics research and shared development, IEEE Transactions on Medical Robotics and Bionics, Vol: 3, Pages: 277-280, ISSN: 2576-3202

Many have explored the application of continuum robot manipulators for minimally invasive surgery, and have successfully demonstrated the advantages their flexible design provides—with some solutions having reached commercialisation and clinical practice. However, the usual high complexity and closed-nature of such designs has traditionally restricted the shared development of continuum robots across the research area, thus impacting further progress and the solution of open challenges. In order to close this gap, this paper introduces ENDO, an open-source 3-segment continuum robot manipulator with control and actuation mechanism, whose focus is on simplicity, affordability, and accessibility. This robotic system is fabricated from low cost off-the-shelf components and rapid prototyping methods, and its information for implementation (and that of future iterations), including CAD files and source code, is available to the public on the’s repository on GitHub, with the control library also available directly from Arduino. Herein, we present details of the robot design and control, validate functionality by experimentally evaluating its workspace, and discuss possible paths for future development.

Journal article

Shen M, Clark A, Rojas N, 2020, A scalable variable stiffness revolute joint based on layer jamming for robotic exoskeletons, Towards Autonomous Robotic Systems Conference ( TAROS ) 2020, Publisher: Springer Verlag, Pages: 3-14, ISSN: 0302-9743

Robotic exoskeletons have been a focal point of research due to an ever-increasing ageing population, longer life expectancy, and a desire to further improve the existing capabilities of humans. However, their effectiveness is often limited, with strong rigid structures poorly interfacing with humans and soft flexible mechanisms providing limited forces. In this paper, a scalable variable stiffness revolute joint is proposed to overcome this problem. By using layer jamming, the joint has the ability to stiffen or soften for different use cases. A theoretical and experimental study of maximum stiffness with size was conducted to determine the suitability and scalablity of this technology. Three sizes (50 mm, 37.5 mm, 25 mm diameter) of the joint were developed and evaluated. Results indicate that this technology is most suitable for use in human fingers, as the prototypes demonstrate a sufficient torque (0.054 Nm) to support finger movement.

Conference paper

Wang J, Lu Q, Clark A, Rojas Net al., 2020, A passively complaint idler mechanism for underactuated dexterous grippers with dynamic tendon routing, Towards Autonomous Robotic Systems Conference (TAROS ) 2020, Publisher: Springer Verlag, ISSN: 0302-9743

n the field of robotic hands, tendon actuation is one of themost common ways to control self-adaptive underactuated fingers thanksto its compact size. Either differential or direct drive mechanisms areusually used in these systems to perform synchronised grasping using asingle actuator. However, synchronisation problems arise in underactu-ated grippers whose position of proximal joints varies with time to per-form manipulation operations, as this results in a tendon-driven systemwith dynamic anchor pulleys. This paper introduces a novel passivelycomplaint idler mechanism to avoid unsynchronisation in grippers witha dynamic multi-tendon routing system, such that adequate graspingcontact forces are kept under changes in the proximal joints’ positions.A re-configurable palm underactuated dexterous gripper is used as acase study, with the performance of the proposed compliant idler systembeing evaluated and compared through a contact force analysis duringrotation and translation in-hand manipulation tasks. Experiment resultsclearly demonstrate the ability of the mechanism to synchronise a dy-namic tendon routing gripper. A video summarising experiments andfindings can be found at

Conference paper

Lu Q, Baron N, Clark A, Rojas Net al., 2020, The RUTH Gripper: systematic object-invariant prehensile in-hand manipulation via reconfigurable underactuation, Robotics: Science and Systems, Publisher: RSS

We introduce a reconfigurable underactuated robothand able to perform systematic prehensile in-hand manipu-lations regardless of object size or shape. The hand utilisesa two-degree-of-freedom five-bar linkage as the palm of thegripper, with three three-phalanx underactuated fingers—jointlycontrolled by a single actuator—connected to the mobile revolutejoints of the palm. Three actuators are used in the robot handsystem, one for controlling the force exerted on objects by thefingers and two for changing the configuration of the palm.This novel layout allows decoupling grasping and manipulation,facilitating the planning and execution of in-hand manipulationoperations. The reconfigurable palm provides the hand withlarge grasping versatility, and allows easy computation of amap between task space and joint space for manipulation basedon distance-based linkage kinematics. The motion of objects ofdifferent sizes and shapes from one pose to another is thenstraightforward and systematic, provided the objects are keptgrasped. This is guaranteed independently and passively by theunderactuated fingers using a custom tendon routing method,which allows no tendon length variation when the relative fingerbase position changes with palm reconfigurations. We analysethe theoretical grasping workspace and manipulation capabilityof the hand, present algorithms for computing the manipulationmap and in-hand manipulation planning, and evaluate all theseexperimentally. Numerical and empirical results of several ma-nipulation trajectories with objects of different size and shapeclearly demonstrate the viability of the proposed concept.

Conference paper

Lu Q, Clark A, Shen M, Rojas Net al., 2020, An origami-inspired variable friction surface for increasing the dexterity of robotic grippers, IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, Vol: 5, Pages: 2538-2545, ISSN: 2377-3766

While the grasping capability of robotic grippers has shown significant development, the ability to manipulate objects within the hand is still limited. One explanation for this limitation is the lack of controlled contact variation between the grasped object and the gripper. For instance, human hands have the ability to firmly grip object surfaces, as well as slide over object faces, an aspect that aids the enhanced manipulation of objects within the hand without losing contact. In this letter, we present a parametric, origami-inspired thin surface capable of transitioning between a high friction and a low friction state, suitable for implementation as an epidermis in robotic fingers. A numerical analysis of the proposed surface based on its design parameters, force analysis, and performance in in-hand manipulation tasks is presented. Through the development of a simple two-fingered two-degree-of-freedom gripper utilizing the proposed variable-friction surfaces with different parameters, we experimentally demonstrate the improved manipulation capabilities of the hand when compared to the same gripper without changeable friction. Results show that the pattern density and valley gap are the main parameters that effect the in-hand manipulation performance. The origami-inspired thin surface with a higher pattern density generated a smaller valley gap and smaller height change, producing a more stable improvement of the manipulation capabilities of the hand.

Journal article

Liow L, Clark A, Rojas N, 2020, OLYMPIC: a modular, tendon-driven prosthetic hand with novel finger and wrist coupling mechanisms, IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, Vol: 5, Pages: 299-306, ISSN: 2377-3766

Prosthetic hands, while having shown significant progress in affordability, typically suffer from limited repairability, specifically by the user themselves. Several modular hands have been proposed to address this, but these solutions require handling of intricate components or are unsuitable for prosthetic use due to the large volume and weight resulting from added mechanical complexity to achieve this modularity. In this paper, we propose a fully modular design for a prosthetic hand with finger and wrist level modularity, allowing the removal and attachment of tendon-driven fingers without the need for tools, retendoning, and rewiring. Our innovative design enables placement of the motors behind the hand for remote actuation of the tendons, which are contained solely within the fingers. Details of the novel coupling-transmission mechanisms enabling this are presented; and the capabilities of a prototype using a control-independent grasping benchmark are discussed. The modular detachment torque of the fingers is also computed to analyse the trade-off between intentional removal and the ability to withstand external loads. Experiment results demonstrate that the prosthetic hand is able to grasp a wide range of household and food items, of different shape, size, and weight, without resulting in the ejection of fingers, while allowing a user to remove them easily using a single hand.

Journal article

Clark A, Rojas N, 2020, Design and workspace characterisation of malleable robots, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Publisher: IEEE

For the majority of tasks performed by traditionalserial robot arms, such as bin picking or pick and place, onlytwo or three degrees of freedom (DOF) are required for motion;however, by augmenting the number of degrees of freedom,further dexterity of robot arms for multiple tasks can beachieved. Instead of increasing the number of joints of a robotto improve flexibility and adaptation, which increases controlcomplexity, weight, and cost of the overall system, malleablerobots utilise a variable stiffness link between joints allowing therelative positioning of the revolute pairs at each end of the linkto vary, thus enabling a low DOF serial robot to adapt acrosstasks by varying its workspace. In this paper, we present thedesign and prototyping of a 2-DOF malleable robot, calculatethe general equation of its workspace using a parameterisationbased on distance geometry—suitable for robot arms of variabletopology, and characterise the workspace categories that theend effector of the robot can trace via reconfiguration. Throughthe design and construction of the malleable robot we exploredesign considerations, and demonstrate the viability of theoverall concept. By using motion tracking on the physical robot,we show examples of the infinite number of workspaces thatthe introduced 2-DOF malleable robot can achieve.

Conference paper

Clark A, Rojas N, 2019, Assessing the performance of variable stiffness continuum structures of large diameter, IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, Vol: 4, Pages: 2455-2462, ISSN: 2377-3766

Variable stiffness continuum structures of large diameters are suitable for high-capability robots, such as in industrial practices where high loads and human–robot interaction are expected. Existing variable stiffness technologies have focused on application as medical manipulators, and as such have been limited to small diameter designs ( $\sim$ 15 mm). Various performance metrics have been presented for continuum structures thus far, focusing on force resistance, but no universal testing methodology for continuum structures that encapsulates their overall performance has been provided. This letter presents five individual qualities that can be experimentally quantified to establish the overall performance capability of a design with respect to its use as a variable stiffness continuum manipulator. Six large diameter ( $>$ 40 mm) continuum structures are developed following both conventional (granular and layer jamming) and novel (hybrid designs and structurally supported layer jamming) approaches and are compared using the presented testing methodology. The development of the continuum structures is discussed, and a detailed insight into the tested quality selection and experimental methodology is presented. Results of experiments demonstrate the suitability of the proposed approach for assessing variable stiffness continuum capability across the design.

Journal article

Clark AB, Rojas N, 2019, Stiffness-tuneable limb segment with flexible spine for malleable robots, 2019 International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), Publisher: IEEE, Pages: 3969-3975, ISSN: 2577-087X

Robotic arms built from stiffness-adjustable, con-tinuously bending segments serially connected with revolutejoints have the ability to change their mechanical architectureand workspace, thus allowing high flexibility and adaptation todifferent tasks with less than six degrees of freedom, a conceptthat we call malleable robots. Known stiffening mechanismsmay be used to implement suitable links for these novel roboticmanipulators; however, these solutions usually show a reducedperformance when bending due to structural deformation. Byincluding an inner support structure this deformation can beminimised, resulting in an increased stiffening performance.This paper presents a new multi-material spine-inspired flexiblestructure for providing support in stiffness-controllable layer-jamming-based robotic links of large diameter. The proposedspine mechanism is highly movable with type and range ofmotions that match those of a robotic link using solely layerjamming, whilst maintaining a hollow and light structure. Themechanics and design of the flexible spine are explored, anda prototype of a link utilising it is developed and comparedwith limb segments based on granular jamming and layerjamming without support structure. Results of experimentsverify the advantages of the proposed design, demonstratingthat it maintains a constant central diameter across bendingangles and presents an improvement of more than 203% ofresisting force at 180°.

Conference paper

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