In natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery (NOTES), an ideal endoscope platform should be flexible and dexterous enough to go through the natural orifices to access the lesion site inside the human body, and meanwhile provide sufficient rigidity to serve as a base for the end-effectors to operate during the surgical tasks. However, the conventional endoscope has limited ability for maintaining high rigidity over the length of the body. This paper presents a novel design of a variable stiffness endoscopic manipulator. By using a new bioplastic named FORMcard, whose stiffness can be thermally adjusted, water at different temperatures is employed to switch the manipulator between rigid mode and flexible mode. A biocompatible microencapsulated phase change material (MEPCM) with latent heat storage properties is adopted as the thermal insulation for better safety. Experiments are conducted to test the concept design, and the validated advantages of our proposed variable stiffness endoscopic manipulator include: shorter mode activation time (25 s), significantly improved stiffness in rigid mode (547.9–926.3 N·cm
) and larger stiffness-adjusting ratio (23.9–25.1 times).
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