Remote center of motion (RCM) mechanisms are often used in surgical robots for laparoscopic surgery. In this paper, a RCM mechanism for holding a robotic forceps that facilitates adjustment using a flexible structure is proposed. The flexible structure is designed and manufactured with polypropylene-like resin material using a three-dimensional (3D) printer. Super elastic NI-Ti rods are inserted in the structure to have elasticity for bending and have rigidity for twisting. The structure achieves pitch motion around the remote center with two pneumatic cylinders. One cylinder drives the position and the other cylinder controls the bending radius of the structure. Therefore, the location of the remote center can be variable. This allows easier adjustment of the remote center before or during operation. The holder robot including the mechanism has four degrees-of-freedom (DOFs) in total, consisting of the pitch, a rotation around yaw axis, a translation in the direction of forceps insertion and a rotation of the forceps. Pneumatic rotary actuators are used for rotations and a cylinder is used for the translational motion. The model of the flexible structure is derived experimentally to design a controller for the pitch motion. A pneumatically driven robotic forceps is mounted on the holder to construct a master–slave control system. Experimental results show that the proposed control law achieves the desired rotational pitch motion. We compare the holder with a rigid link RCM holder and confirm the robustness of the proposed holder for variable remote center. Finally, the effectiveness of the system is confirmed with suturing tasks using a phantom tissue.

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