I have long wanted to write about the Robotics Center at DLR, the "Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt Forschungseinrichtung", as I've always admired their work related to space and robotics. The DLR was founded in 1907 in Cologne, and the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics directed by Prof. Gerd Hirzinger is located in Oberpfaffenhofen. They have been involved with medical robotic research since the '90s, collecting numerous awards and prizes with their robots every year. Currently, a couple of eye-catching projects are listed in their annual brochure:
- KineMedic and Miro arms - precise, light-weight manipulators for various surgical applications. KineMedic should appear in KUKA/BrainLab's portfolio soon.
- MiroSurge - Telemanipulation in minimally invasive surgery
Minimally invasive surgery (MIS) challenges the surgeon’s skills due to his separation from the operation area which can be reached by long instruments only. To overcome the drawbacks of conventional MIS the DLR works on a research system for telrobotic endoscpic surgery.
- MICA - Actuated and sensorized instruments
The DLR MICA is the second generation of DLR versatile instruments for minimally invasive surgery. MICA is a 3 degrees of freedom robot, which–in the MiroSurge system–represents additional joints of the lightweight telemanipulator MIRO. In the present configuration MICA is comprised of a drive unit, wrist, gripper and force/torque sensor, providing dexterity and force feedback for delicate surgical procedures.
- Preoperative Planning and Registration
One key aspect necessary for a successful minimally invasive intervention is preoperative planning, done by the surgeon in order to prepare the intervention and to decide about the best access to the surgical site. In case of robotically assisted interventions the results of these decisions must be transferred also to the robotic equipment.
- Motion Compensation in Heart Surgery
Motion compensation is a highly desired functionality in minimally invasive beating heart surgery. Before motion compensation in beating heart surgery can be performed, organ motion arising from the patient's respiration or heart beat has to be coped with. Therefore, the reliable measurement of this motion is an essential part of an advanced minimally invasive robotic surgery system.
- Robot-assisted endoscope guidance
During manual laparoscopic interventions, the surgeon does not have direct visual control of the operating field as in open surgery, but orientates himself by the laparoscopic image displayed on a monitor. It is the task of an assistant to guide the laparoscope such that the field of view is optimal for the surgeon.
- Brain Spatula
Based on the technology of DLR Hand II, the project will be to develop a new type of full force controlled mechatronical brain spatula to replace the current passive mechanical support arm without any sensory information. By using the force-controlled brain spatula, the mechanical interaction on the brain tissue can be measured qualitatively and quantitatively. The whole system will be first carried out on the pig’s brain at the lab of Technical University of Aachen (RWTH Aachen).