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Southern Manufacturing & Electronics

Farnborough, Hants(GU14 6XL)

11/02/2020 - 13/02/2020

Southern Manufacturing and Electronics is the most comprehensive annual industrial exhibition in the (more)

Deep brain surgery inspired by wasps

Deep brain surgery inspired by wasps

A significant problem when operating on the brain is trying to reach a lesion whilst avoiding obstructions. A traditional straight needle insertion has the potential to injure an area, causing irreversible consequences, or the surgeon could deem it too dangerous to even attempt, resulting in an inoperable diagnosis. Imperial College, London, has been working with Maxon products to develop a groundbreaking robotic steerable needle.

Riccardo Secoli, PhD, Mechatronics in Medicine Laboratory, is part of a research team at Imperial who are working to construct a surgical needle that can be manoeuvrered to reach a target deep in the brain while avoiding critical areas. Inspired by the way certain wasps lay eggs inside plants, the unique design of this flexible, steerable needle is made of multiple segments, held together by an interlocking mechanism. 

The reaction force during the insertion process allows it to bend to create the curvature. The biologically inspired robotic probe, codenamed STING (Soft Tissue Intervention and Neurosurgical Guide), can change its direction smoothly by means of a ‘programmable bevel’ tip. Maxon EPOS 24/2 DC motor positioning controllers (closed-loop) are employed using a strategy first developed for car-like robots. An electromagnetic position sensor is embedded at the tip of the probe. 

Riccardo selected a Maxon EC 20 flat brushless DC motor, with a GP-22 gearhead. Imperial College looked at other DC motor manufacturers, but a major reason to use Maxon products was the access to the API (Application Programming Interface) for customisation. The Imperial College team are also prototyping the software, using the popular open source operating systems, the Robot Operating System (ROS), and have focused on the API interface, using Linux in particular. Maxon’s controllers are specifically designed to allow API customisation, which has helped the team to produce a set of libraries to make this an easy process.

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