Towards a steerable multi-module soft robotic endoscope for NOTES applications

Finished: 2019-06-14

MSc assignment

This project comprises the design and fabrication of a multi-module endoscope for Natural Orifice Transluminal Endoscopic Surgery (NOTES) based on MR-compatible soft robotic segments. The segments are silicone tubes containing pneumatic chambers that actuate the bending of the segment when pressurized. Each segment contains an empty central cylinder, for guiding instruments for surgery, and has controllable stiffness based on granular jamming.

While design and characterization of the segments has been done in previous work, the design of the endoscope requires the segments to have similar properties. The combination of multiple segments and the routing of the high pressure pneumatic tubes will influence the behavior of the individual segments. This means that, in order to apply the robot kinematics, the influence of adjacent segments has to be minimized and/or the control of the segments has to be designed to compensate for this effect. Control of the individual segments will be designed and implemented based on the kinematics following from the collaboration with another student working on the application and path planning of the multi-module endoscope. A physical demonstrator using this path planning will be constructed if time permits.

Experiments will initially be performed to quantify the influence of the construction and actuation methods. Based on the findings, the design of the segments might be improved for either manufacturability, repeatability of performance, or as required for the multi-module construction.

Novel methods for actuating the segments will be explored. A solution using integrated micro pneumatic valves, to supply all chambers from a single larger volume pressure source, seems a good candidate for reducing the influence of the pneumatic tubing and improving the performance of the endoscope. Minimizing the pneumatic overhead will lead to a more general applicable segment and will make it possible to create larger links for improved range and maneuverability.