European Surgical Robotics Demonstration Day

The European Surgical Robotics Demonstration Day was organized in Leuven, Belgium 27 March 2014, where the three leading EU founded surgical robotics research projects were given an opportunity to present their progress. Besides the detailed interactive presentations of the projects STIFF–FLOP, μRALP és CASCADE, the participants were given the chance to attend afternoon workshops, led by distinguished professors and doctors. The topics of the workshops covered various fields of surgical robotics, its future and opportunities.
In the name of the organizing university, KU Leuven, prof. Jos Vander Sloten welcomed the participants, inviting the leaders of the three research groups to briefly present their work.
First, Leonardo Mattos, research fellow of the Istituto Italiano di Technologia held his presentation, who, as the leader of the μRALP (Micro-Technologies and Systems for Robot-Assisted Laser Phonomicrosurgery) project, highlighted that they would like to start a new era in phonomicrosurgery. Today’s surgeries in this field are carried out using microscopes and the laser beam is directed by the surgeon’s hand manually, which make these procedures rather complicated. The main aim of μRALP is to increase the performance of these surgeries by involving robotics: the laser beam is guided with the help of a tablet PC, while a three–dimensional visual feedback and a 3D model of the tissue is provided to the user. One of the remarkable functions of the device is the real–time information  provided about the cutting depth and the tissue temperature thanks to the modeling of the laser–tissue interaction during the procedure.
After presenting μRALP, prof. Kaspar Althoefer from King’s College London spoke about the opportunities in the project STIFF–FLOP (STIFFness controllable Flexible and Learn-able Manipulator for surgical OPerations), highlighting its greatest advantage compared to the existing devices: modularity and flexibility. While today’s surgical robots are rigid devices, STIFF–FLOP navigates between the organs with a worm–like motion. However, owing to its special structure, its stiffness can be increased at any state. The aim of this project is to create an octopus–like device that can revolutionize surgical robotics applications.
The presentation of the projects was concluded by Emmanuel Vander Poorten, professor of KU Leuven, holding his presentation about the CASCADE (Cognitive AutonomouS CAtheter operating in Dynamic Environments) system. The primary aim of the CASCADE project is to improve the quality of intravascular surgeries with the novel robot they developed. The device is capable of intravascular sensing, the procedure can be carried out in a radiation–free environment and the users are provided with a real–time 3D model reconstruction and advanced control.
Following the oral presentations, each of the projects were demonstrated in 45 minutes, where the participants could examine the part of the robots closely and they could give their comments and questions directly to the developers.
The participants were given the chance to talk about their future plans and possible collaborations during lunch and coffee breaks. At the end of the day, following the demonstrations and the short workshops, they waved goodbye to each other in the promise of seeing each other soon.

Image credit: Á. Takács


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