This paper presents the design and analysis of an underactuated, cable driven mechanism for use in a modular robotic snake. The proposed mechanism is composed of a chain of rigid links that rotate on parallel revolute joints and are actuated by antagonistic cable pairs and a multi-radius pulley. This design aims to minimize the cross sectional area of cable actuated robotic snakes and eliminate undesirable nonlinearities in cable displacements. A distinctive feature of this underactuated mechanism is that it allows planar serpentine locomotion to be accomplished with only two modular units, improving the snake’s ability to conform to desired curvature profiles and minimizing the control complexity involved in snake locomotion. First, the detailed mechanism and cable routing scheme are presented, after which the kinematics and dynamics of the system are derived and a comparative analysis of cable routing schemes is performed, to assist with design synthesis and control. The moment of inertia of the mechanism is modeled, for future use in the implementation of three-dimensional modes of snake motion. Finally, a planar locomotion strategy for snake robots is devised, demonstrated in simulation, and compared with previous studies.

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