Soft Matter for Biomedical Applications
Chapter 27: Soft Robotics Solutions for Minimally Invasive Surgery: The Need for Stiffness Controllability
Published:07 Jun 2021
Special Collection: 2021 ebook collectionSeries: Soft Matter Series
J. Fras, A. Arezzo, A. Shiva, and K. Althoefer, in Soft Matter for Biomedical Applications, ed. H. S. Azevedo, J. F. Mano, and J. Borges, The Royal Society of Chemistry, 2021, ch. 27, pp. 684-719.
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Over the last 20 years, there has been tremendous development in the area of robotized surgical tools with the da Vinci Surgical System by Intuitive Surgical being a clear frontrunner. While the da Vinci Surgical System is based on the more traditional rigid-component technology that already has a proven track record for being capable of conducting tasks with high position accuracy, a need for more dexterous and more compliant surgical tools has been recognized. Soft material robotics, a recently emerging field, shows a lot of promise in this respect. The beginnings of soft robotics for minimally invasive surgery can be traced back to work conducted in the framework of EU-funded project STIFF-FLOP which proposed a radical shift from the traditional rigid-component approach toward soft robots taking inspiration from biology. The biological role model used within STIFF-FLOP was the octopus which is capable of squeezing its boneless limbs through the narrowest of openings and also stiffening them to conduct tasks by applying the required force to the environment. This chapter will summarize the findings of this earlier work and report on recent advancements with regards to fabrication, actuation and the control of stiffness of soft robots for minimally invasive surgery.