“The positioning of a needle or probe in a minimal invasive procedure is absolutely crucial, because at best the doctor can be guided by computer tomography or MRT imaging and that means working with the patient lying in a narrow tube. This more or less limits the doctor’s freedom of movement”, explains Marius Siegfarth of the Fraunhofer IPA project group for Automation in Medicine and Biotechnology (PAMB) at the Medical Faculty Mannheim at Heidelberg University.
The robot is being developed by Siegfarth’s team under the SPIRITS project in conjunction with other research groups from Germany, France and Switzerland. The robot is small and light enough to be inserted in the scanner tube with the patient. It is controlled hydraulically from outside – so that doctors can be a few meters away and may even be in another room, where they are protected from CT imaging radiation hazard. The acronym SPIRITS stands for Smart Printed Interactive Robots for Interventional Therapy and Surgery.
“The challenge presented by this project was to develop a design that could be generated in a single stage by PolyJet printer, but that at the same time comprised fully functional components, for example, rotary joints with hydraulic actuators and a drive mechanism to move the needle. All these components have different material characteristics”, Siegfarth adds.