Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Computer Science

First Advisor

Yan-bin Jia


Deformable modeling of thin shell-like and other objects have potential application in robot grasping, medical robotics, home robots, and so on. The ability to manipulate electrical and optical cables, rubber toys, plastic bottles, ropes, biological tissues, and organs is an important feature of robot intelligence. However, grasping of deformable objects has remained an underdeveloped research area. When a robot hand applies force to grasp a soft object, deformation will result in the enlarging of the finger contact regions and the rotation of the contact normals, which in turn will result in a changing wrench space. The varying geometry can be determined by either solving a high order differential equation or

minimizing potential energy. Efficient and accurate modeling of deformations is crucial for grasp analysis. It helps us predict whether a grasp will be successful from its finger placement and exerted force, and subsequently helps us design a grasping strategy.

The first part of this thesis extends the linear and nonlinear shell theories to describe extensional, shearing, and bending strains in terms of geometric invariants including the principal curvatures and vectors, and the related directional and covariant derivatives. To our knowledge, this is the first non-parametric formulation of thin shell strains. A computational procedure for the strain energy is then offered for general parametric shells. In practice, a shell deformation is conveniently represented by a subdivision surface. We compare the results via potential energy

minimization over a couple of benchmark problems with their analytical solutions and the results generated by two commercial softwares ABAQUS and ANSYS. Our method achieves a convergence rate an order of magnitude higher. Experimental validation involves regular and freeform shell-like objects (of various materials) grasped by a robot hand, with the results compared against scanned 3-D data (accuracy 0.127mm). Grasped objects often undergo sizable shape changes, for which a much higher modeling accuracy can be achieved using the nonlinear elasticity theory than its linear counterpart.

The second part numerically studies two-finger grasping of deformable curve-like objects under frictional contacts. The action is like squeezing. Deformation is modeled by a degenerate version of the thin shell theory. Several differences from rigid body grasping are shown. First, under a squeeze, the friction cone at each finger contact rotates in a direction that depends on the deformable object's global geometry, which implies that modeling is necessary for grasp prediction. Second, the magnitude of the grasping force has to be above certain threshold to achieve equilibrium. Third, the set of feasible finger placements may increase significantly compared to that for a rigid object of the same shape. Finally, the ability to resist disturbance is bounded in the sense that

increasing the magnitude of an external force may result in the breaking of the grasp.

Copyright Owner

Jiang Tian



Date Available


File Format


File Size

108 pages