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Various robotic applications including surgical instruments, wearable robots and autonomous mobile robots are often constrained with strict design requirements on high degrees of freedom (DoF) and minimal volume and weight. An intuitive design to meet these contradictory requirements is to embed locking mechanism in under actuated robotic manipulators to direct the actuation from a single and remote source to drive different joints on demand. Mechanical clutches do serve such purposes but often are bulky and require auxiliary mechanism making it difficult to justify the high cost adding the additional DoF, especially in cm scale. Here, we introduce an under-actuated robotic arm with shape memory polymer (SMP) joints. Through controlling the temperature, the stiffness of the joints can be adjusted and selected joints will be activated while the rest are fixed in their position. The presented prototype can control the joints independently with a coupled actuation from two stepper motors. Since we have redundant DoFs in the arm, there can be more than one configuration to reach a given position. We use a probabilistic technique to determine the optimum configuration with the minimum number of active joints that can yield the desired posture. In this paper, we report on the performance of the proposed design for the hardware and the configuration planner.

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Last update: 25/08/06