Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Mechanical Engineering & Applied Mechanics

First Advisor

Vijay Kumar

Second Advisor

Mark Yim


A wide variety of problems, from manufacturing to disaster response and space exploration, can benefit from robotic systems that can firmly grasp objects or assemble various structures, particularly in difficult, dangerous environments. In this thesis, we study the two problems, robotic grasping and assembly, with a modular robotic approach that can facilitate the problems with versatility and robustness.

First, this thesis develops a theoretical framework for grasping objects with customized effectors that have curved contact surfaces, with applications to modular robots. We present a collection of grasps and cages that can effectively restrain the mobility of a wide range of objects including polyhedra. Each of the grasps or cages is formed by at most three effectors. A stable grasp is obtained by simple motion planning and control. Based on the theory, we create a robotic system comprised of a modular manipulator equipped with customized end-effectors and a software suite for planning and control of the manipulator.

Second, this thesis presents efficient assembly planning algorithms for constructing planar target structures collectively with a collection of homogeneous mobile modular robots. The algorithms are provably correct and address arbitrary target structures that may include internal holes. The resultant assembly plan supports parallel assembly and guarantees easy accessibility in the sense that a robot does not have to pass through a narrow gap while approaching its target position. Finally, we extend the algorithms to address various symmetric patterns formed by a collection of congruent rectangles on the plane.

The basic ideas in this thesis have broad applications to manufacturing (restraint), humanitarian missions (forming airfields on the high seas), and service robotics (grasping and manipulation).

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Included in

Robotics Commons