This paper presents the derivation and experimental validation of algorithms for modeling and estimation of soft continuum manipulators using Lie group variational integration. Existing approaches are generally limited to static and quasi-static analyses, and are not sufficiently validated for dynamic motion. However, in several applications, models need to consider the dynamical behavior of the continuum manipulators. The proposed modeling and estimation formulation is obtained from a discrete variational principle, and therefore grants outstanding conservation properties to the continuum mechanical model. The main contribution of this article is the experimental validation of the dynamic model of soft continuum manipulators, including external torques and forces (e.g., generated by magnetic fields, friction, and the gravity), by carrying out different experiments with metal rods and polymer-based soft rods. To consider dissipative forces in the validation process, distributed estimation filters are proposed. The experimental and numerical tests also illustrate the algorithm’s performance on a magnetically-actuated soft continuum manipulator. The model demonstrates good agreement with dynamic experiments in estimating the tip position of a Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) rod. The experimental results show an average absolute error and maximum error in tip position estimation of 0.13 mm and 0.58 mm, respectively, for a manipulator length of 60.55 mm.
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