Students at the Hamlyn centre of the Imperial College of London are working on i-Snake, which is a flexible robot that is helpful in minimally invasive surgery.
Their research work has won the Best Medical Robotics Paper Award at the annual meet of the robotics community organised by IEEE. The WellCome Trust is funding their project through the Wellcome Trust Strategic Translation Award. The award winning paper was titled, “An articulated universal joint- based flexible access robot for minimally invasive surgery”. The paper provided details on how the i-Snake robot navigates using the unique hybrid tendon-micrometer arrangement. This arrangement allows for the control of the robot while retaining the large inner channels for the probes and surgical instruments.
Dr. Jian-Zhong Shang presented the paper and gave an in-depth description of the mechatronics design of the system and provided the experimental results of testing the i-Snake robot on animals in performing sterilization procedures. The i-Snake project aims at building a robot that is fully articulated and is capable of merging the imaging and sensing functions to overcome the limitations in the current laparoscopic procedures. The team is working on addressing clinical challenges such as integrated sensing, navigation and control, tissue categorization, surgical navigation under active constraints etc. By addressing these challenges, the team would come up with a minimally invasive surgical aid that is used to perform gastrointestinal, cardiothoracic surgery and gynaecological procedures.