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Harvard Researchers Create Soft Robotic Arm to Make Endoscopies Easier

Surgery and Surgical Robotics August 25, 2017

Harvard researchers have created a rigid-soft robotic arm for endoscopes that can sense, flex and has multiple degrees of freedom.

Soft Robotic ArmFlexible endoscopes fit through narrow passages to reach difficult parts of the body. Once they reach their target, the devices need rigid surgical tools to be able to manipulate or remove tissues.

Researchers from Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) developed this robotic arm using a manufacturing paradigm that involves pop-up fabrication and soft lithography. The robotic arm lies flat on an endoscope until it reaches a certain location where it pops up to help in surgical procedures.

Soft robotics are especially helpful in surgical procedures because they are able to match the stiffness of the human body. Because they’re soft, the risk of puncturing or tearing tissue is eliminated. The drawback to soft robotics, however, is that soft materials sometimes cannot perform surgical tasks because they don’t have enough force.

“At the millimeter scale, a soft device becomes so soft that it can’t damage tissue but it also can’t manipulate the tissue in any meaningful way,” Tommaso Ranzani, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Wyss Institute and SEAS and co-author of the paper, said in a press release. “That limits the application of soft microsystems for performing therapy. The question is, how can we develop soft robots that are still able to generate the necessary forces without compromising safety.”

The researchers created a hybrid model that had a rigid skeleton encased in soft material. It was manufactured using an origami-inspired pop-up fabrication method that was developed by Robert Wood, a paper co-author.

Read More at the Source: Soft, water-powered robot makes endoscopic surgery easier | Medical Design and Outsourcing

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