Continuum Medical Robots, known as catheters, are devices made from rubber-like components navigated by cables. However, this framework led to lateral lags, which caused limitations to the procedure’s success. Given this, researchers ought to find possible solutions to promote catheter safety while avoiding their nonlinear behavior.

Recent studies developed a new method of flexible catheters to conduct minimally invasive surgeries. One of these systems includes that from a mechanical engineering professor named Tania Morimoto, and ME Ph.D. student, Connor Watson.

Watson and Morimoto’s “Growing Robots” System

Watson and Morimoto’s Growing Robots System - THESIS.PH

The two engineers developed new systems for Tip-Extending Robots, known as “Growing Robots”, which practitioners can navigate through highly constricted environments inside our bodies. Due to its high proficiency and manipulability, these robots are safer and more compliant than previous tools. However, such challenges accompany the system’s features, and this includes:

  • tracking its location
  • estimating and controlling its shape inside the body

The researchers placed a permanent magnet at the robot’s tips, which can be used in sensitive areas in the body to address these concerns. These magnets work like a GPS, which can work as a computer model useful in predicting the flexible robot’s location.

These robots comprise of very thin-walled hollow tubes from nylon that you can invert like socks. A fluid extracted makes the robot soft and mobile by growing. It is ideal in medical settings, given that it has unharming effects on its surroundings.

The researchers are aware of the magnetic field strength needed for them to know where the tips are. They rely on four sensors carefully placed on the robot’s operating areas to place the magnet inside the robot.

They also used a range of magneto-inductive sensors that estimate alterations in the magnetic field as the robot moves around the areas.

Comparisons and Further Aspirations for Growing Robot Technologies

In April 2020, the IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters issue published and recognized Morimoto and Watson’s research for Growing Robots.

Their approach using the technology proved its excellence against previous excellent methods. Some of these advantages include:

  • It is safer as it does not require exposure to radiation.
  • It can perform as good as existing methods, but it is less costly. The whole system, which includes the localization feature of the magnets, only amounts to 100 dollars.
  • Its localization techniques incorporate machine learning techniques.
  • The researchers also trained a neural network to recognize discrepancies between what sensors read and what the model says they should read. This feature significantly improved its localization’s precision in tracking the robot’s tips. The system works in assisting the robot to smoothly make its way to very delicate areas in the body, including the brain’s arterial pathways.

These findings would surely help both patients, and medical practitioners once proved. Today, the researchers continue to test the robot’s system and promote its benefits to medical procedures. They hope that their tools could contribute to growing robot technology. They aspire to apply their findings and to test growing robots for future clinical and medical robotics uses.

Does your thesis use the same medical technology? How do you plan to make yours a more efficient version?

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