Novel design of MR-compatible pneumatic soft-surgical endoscope for MIS applications with variable stiffness

In this research a novel pneumatic soft-surgical endoscope module is designed for minimally invasive surgeries (MIS). The novel design aims to improve the performance of soft flexible endoscopes that are affected by a start-up transient consisting of a dead-zone by achieving linear bending motion at near-straight configuration.

Further, variable stiffness is implemented to ensure that the endoscope can apply forces within the requirements and limits of laparoscopy, and finally improve scalability, i.e. the future capability to scale design or the ability to stack multiple modules. Designed to be applicable for MIS, including laparoscopies, the endoscope consists of a central free lumen, pneumatic actuation chamber and laminar jamming stiffness mechanism with a distal diameter capable of fitting laparoscopic trocars.

The endoscope designed (inspired by the shell-reinforced soft actuator) is modelled using finite element method, model parameters are tuned and a design study is performed where various geometric parameters are evaluated. A simplified analytical model of the variable stiffness mechanism is also made for improved performance. The final design is fabricated, and its performance is tested and analysed with respect to the aim of the research.

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