Soft Actuators for Medical Robotics

A special issue of Actuators (ISSN 2076-0825). This special issue belongs to the section "Actuators for Robotics".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 April 2024 | Viewed by 5964

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
The BioRobotics Institute, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, Viale Rinaldo Piaggio, 34, 56025 Pontedera, Italy
Interests: soft robotics; fluidic actuators; wearable physical interfaces; variable stiffness technologies; medical devices

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Guest Editor
School of Engineering, College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK
Interests: soft robotics; pneumatic muscles; end effectors; automation for food; healthcare robotics
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

We are pleased to invite you to submit your original research or review articles to our Special Issue entitled “Soft Actuators for Medical Robotics”.

In recent decades, the exploitation of soft matter and variable stiffness technologies in medical robotics have allowed for the development of even more sophisticated devices able to guarantee compliant and safe interactions with the human body. This Special Issue aims to highlight novel scientific routes of soft robotics in medical applications, with a particular focus on soft and active materials as well as different actuation strategies.

Dr. Linda Paternò
Dr. Steve Davis
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Actuators is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • soft robotics
  • artificial muscle
  • textile technology
  • variable stiffness actuators
  • smart materials
  • medical devices
  • artificial organs
  • prostheses
  • surgical devices

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

24 pages, 13343 KiB  
Article
Research on Mechanical Leg Structure Design and Control System of Lower Limb Exoskeleton Rehabilitation Robot Based on Magnetorheological Variable Stiffness and Damping Actuator
by Chenglong Zhao, Zhen Liu, Chongsong Zheng, Liucun Zhu and Yuefei Wang
Actuators 2024, 13(4), 132; https://doi.org/10.3390/act13040132 - 05 Apr 2024
Viewed by 341
Abstract
During the walking process of lower limb exoskeleton rehabilitation robots, inevitable collision impacts will occur when the swinging leg lands on the ground. The impact reaction force from the ground will induce vibrations in the entire robot’s body from bottom to top. To [...] Read more.
During the walking process of lower limb exoskeleton rehabilitation robots, inevitable collision impacts will occur when the swinging leg lands on the ground. The impact reaction force from the ground will induce vibrations in the entire robot’s body from bottom to top. To address this phenomenon, considering the limitations of traditional active compliance and passive compliance methods, a variable stiffness and damping actuator (VSDA) leg structure using a magnetorheological damper (MRD) is proposed. Firstly, experimental methods are used to obtain the ground reaction force (GRF) exerted on a normal person during walking. Then, a mathematical model of the VSDA leg structure is constructed, and its working principle is analyzed. Based on human mass and dimensions, a 3D model is designed and selected. Finally, a simulation model is built in the MATLAB/Simulink environment using the fuzzy switch damping control strategy to simulate the acceleration and displacement of the human body under sinusoidal and random excitations. The results indicate that under sinusoidal excitation, employing fuzzy switch damping control optimizes human displacement by 72.47% compared to the high stiffness and high damping system, and by 16.95% compared to the switch damping system. Human acceleration is optimized by 52.09% compared to the high stiffness and high damping system, and by 25.2% compared to the switch damping system. Under random excitation, adopting fuzzy switch damping control optimizes human displacement by 59.09% compared to the high stiffness and high damping system, and by 21.74% compared to the switch damping system. Human acceleration is optimized by 78.74% compared to the high stiffness and high damping system, and by 31.66% compared to the switch damping system. This validates the VSDA design structure and control method, demonstrating certain advantages in improving the compliance and stability of lower limb exoskeleton rehabilitation robots. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soft Actuators for Medical Robotics)
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12 pages, 5588 KiB  
Article
Development of Novel Hydraulic 3D Printed Actuator Using Electrorheological Fluid for Robotic Endoscopy
by Fabian Sadi, Jan Holthausen, Jan Stallkamp and Marius Siegfarth
Actuators 2024, 13(4), 119; https://doi.org/10.3390/act13040119 - 23 Mar 2024
Viewed by 500
Abstract
Endoscopy has made a significant and noteworthy contribution to the field of medical science and technology. Nevertheless, its potential remains constrained due to the limited availability of rigid or flexible endoscopes. This paper introduces a novel hydraulic actuator based on electrorheological fluid (ERF) [...] Read more.
Endoscopy has made a significant and noteworthy contribution to the field of medical science and technology. Nevertheless, its potential remains constrained due to the limited availability of rigid or flexible endoscopes. This paper introduces a novel hydraulic actuator based on electrorheological fluid (ERF) as a pivotal advancement in bridging the existing gap within the realm of endoscopy. Following a comprehensive introduction that briefly outlines the electrorheological effect, the subsequent section is dedicated to the elucidation of the actuator’s development process. Challenges arise, particularly in terms of miniaturization and the realization of a hydraulically sealed system with integrated valve electrodes. An internal electrorheological valve system consisting of four valves that are controlled using a pulse-width modulated high voltage was suitable for position control of the antagonistic hydraulic actuators. High-precision stereolithography (SLA) printing has proven practical for manufacturing actuator components. For functional testing, a test bench was set up in which the actuator follows a setpoint through a PI control loop. The control deviation ranged from 0.6 to 1 degree, with a response time between 6 and 8 s. The experiments have demonstrated that through the use of ERF and integrated valve electrodes, a miniaturized functional actuator can be constructed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soft Actuators for Medical Robotics)
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18 pages, 4497 KiB  
Article
Design and Analysis of an MRI-Compatible Soft Needle Manipulator
by Jie Chen, Jingyu Zhang, Tianyu Jiang, Yu Dang and Jianda Han
Actuators 2024, 13(2), 59; https://doi.org/10.3390/act13020059 - 03 Feb 2024
Viewed by 1228
Abstract
Needle manipulation with the guidance of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) plays a key role in minimally invasive procedures such as biopsy and ablation. However, the confined bore and strong magnetic field of the MR environment pose great challenges in developing a robotic system [...] Read more.
Needle manipulation with the guidance of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) plays a key role in minimally invasive procedures such as biopsy and ablation. However, the confined bore and strong magnetic field of the MR environment pose great challenges in developing a robotic system that fulfills the needle manipulation function. This paper presents the design and analysis of a soft needle manipulator (SoNIM) that can achieve needle manipulation in the MR environment. This pneumatically actuated manipulator consists of two bending actuators and one elongation actuator that are completely made of non-magnetic materials. These soft pneumatic actuators can generate flexible movements while maintaining a compact design, ensuring that the SoNIM is accommodated within the MRI bore. The kinematic modeling and closed-loop control of the SoNIM are investigated to achieve the position control of the needle tip. Experiments showed that the SoNIM was capable of directing the needle tip to reach the targets with a satisfactory accuracy of 2.9 ± 0.98 mm. Furthermore, the functionality and MRI compatibility of the SoNIM were validated in the clinical setting, demonstrating the capability of the SoNIM to perform needle manipulation in the MRI bore with negligible degradation to the image quality. With excellent MRI compatibility, compact design, and flexible movements, the SoNIM provides a promising solution for manipulating surgical needles in MRI-guided minimally invasive surgeries. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soft Actuators for Medical Robotics)
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11 pages, 4382 KiB  
Article
Design of Soft Pneumatic Actuator with Two Oblique Chambers for Coupled Bending and Twisting Movements
by Ebrahim Shahabi, Behnam Kamare, Francesco Visentin, Alessio Mondini and Barbara Mazzolai
Actuators 2023, 12(12), 446; https://doi.org/10.3390/act12120446 - 01 Dec 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1528
Abstract
Soft pneumatic network (Pneu-net) actuators are frequently used to achieve sophisticated movements, but they face challenges in producing both bending and twisting motions concurrently. In this paper, we present a new Pneu-net twisting and bending actuator (PTBA) design that enables them to perform [...] Read more.
Soft pneumatic network (Pneu-net) actuators are frequently used to achieve sophisticated movements, but they face challenges in producing both bending and twisting motions concurrently. In this paper, we present a new Pneu-net twisting and bending actuator (PTBA) design that enables them to perform complex motions. We achieved this by adjusting the chamber angle, ranging from 15 to 75 degrees, to optimize the bending and twisting movements through finite element analysis and experimental verification. We also investigated the variation trends in bending and twisting motions and determined the actuator’s workspace and maximum grasping force for a variety of objects with different shapes, materials, and sizes. Our findings suggest that PTBA is a promising candidate for advanced applications requiring intricate and bioinspired movements. This new design method offers a path toward achieving these goals. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soft Actuators for Medical Robotics)
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12 pages, 2217 KiB  
Article
Characterization of a 3D Printed Endovascular Magnetic Catheter
by Mohammad Hasan Dad Ansari, Xuan Thao Ha, Mouloud Ourak, Gianni Borghesan, Veronica Iacovacci, Emmanuel Vander Poorten and Arianna Menciassi
Actuators 2023, 12(11), 409; https://doi.org/10.3390/act12110409 - 01 Nov 2023
Viewed by 1703
Abstract
Minimally invasive endovascular procedures rely heavily on catheter devices. However, traditional catheters lack active steering requiring considerable skill on the surgeon’s part to accurately position the tip. While catheter tips could be made steerable using tendon-driven and Pneumatic Artificial Muscle (PAM) approaches, remote [...] Read more.
Minimally invasive endovascular procedures rely heavily on catheter devices. However, traditional catheters lack active steering requiring considerable skill on the surgeon’s part to accurately position the tip. While catheter tips could be made steerable using tendon-driven and Pneumatic Artificial Muscle (PAM) approaches, remote magnetic actuation is uniquely suited for this task due to its safety, controllability, and intrinsic miniaturization capabilities. Soft composite magnetic materials feature embedding distributed magnetic microparticles compared with attaching discrete permanent magnets proving beneficial in steerability and control. This work demonstrates the fabrication of a soft hollow magnetic tip that can be attached to a catheter to make the assembly steerable. The catheter tip is extensively characterized in terms of bending hysteresis, bending force, and dynamic response. The catheter showed average hysteresis between 5% and 10% and bending forces up to 0.8 N. It also showed a good dynamic response by changing its bending angle in <200 ms under a step response. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soft Actuators for Medical Robotics)
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