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This paper presents a novel “layer jamming” mechanism that can achieve variable stiffness. The layer jamming mechanism exploits the friction present between layers of thin material, which can be controlled by a confining pressure. Due to the mechanism's hollow geometry, compact size, and light weight, it is well suited for various minimally invasive surgery applications, where stiffness change is required. This paper describes the concept, the mathematical model, and a tubular snake-like manipulator prototype. Various characteristics of layer jamming, such as stiffness and yield strength, are studied both theoretically and experimentally.