Force feedback for the da Vinci--cleaning the tools
The community has long been talking about the force sensing capability for the master-slave type MIS robots, such as the da Vinci. Numerous research prototypes have been created, and some newer systems already integrated such features (such as ALF-X or the RAMS). Some patents have been submitted for the da Vinci tools as early as 2005.
A recently submitted patent "CLEANING OF A SURGICAL INSTRUMENT FORCE SENSOR" already gives a method for cleaning such a da Vinci instrument (which is still a critical issue due to the heat-sensibility of the force sensing elements):
"A force transducer is coupled to a distal portion of a shaft of a surgical instrument. The force transducer includes proximal and distal portions, radial ribs, and a plurality of strain gauges. The radial ribs form a plurality of through passages. The surgical instrument further includes a flush manifold that receives a liquid from a proximal portion of the shaft, and that directs the liquid along a first subset of through passages of the plurality of through passages toward the distal portion of the force transducer. A plenum at the distal portion of the force transducer collects the liquid from the first subset of through passages and redirects the liquid back toward the proximal portion of the shaft along a second subset of through passages of the plurality of through passages different from the first subset of through passages."