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Advances In Biomedical Robotics In 2015

Posted on December 21st, 2015 by in New Materials & Applications

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Year on year, the use of advanced materials and robotics in the biomedical sphere is growing. In this post, I’m going to highlight three interesting developments from 2015 in the sector.

Dissolving Medical Robots
A team of researchers from MIT has come up with a tiny robot design inspired by the notion that one day, they could be injected into the human body to perform surgical tasks. Once the little units have finished their task, they simply dissolve away.

The centimeter long, one third of a gram, printable robots fold up from a flat sheet like an origami model. Each robot has a small magnetic positioned on it’s back, which allows the movement of the robot to be controlled by external magnetic fields.

The little devices can travel on a range of surfaces and inclines, swim and carry a load. Some have been designed to dissolve in acetone, and others in water, hinting at their potential future use as temporary devices inside the body.

Surgical Robotic Platforms
From little, to large. Robots to help surgeons make precise movements during keyhole surgery have been around for a little while. But 2015 has seen several companies move to make this type of technology more affordable and readily available.

Back in March, Google and Johnson & Johnson announced a partnership in the field of surgical robotics. A small and growing startup in Cambridge, UK, recently announced the low-cost surgical platform they’re developing and there are several other companies moving into this area too. 2016 could be an interesting year for medical robotics as companies vie to lay claim to their slice of this growing industry.

4D Printing Of Squishy Robots
While there have been big steps forwards in the world of 3D printing this year, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh recently presented their research on 4D printed materials. “In 4D printing, time is the fourth dimension that characterises the structure of the material; namely, these materials can change shape even after they have been printed,” explains Dr. Anna Balazs of the University of Pittsburgh.

The material they’ve designed is able to reconfigure itself into different shapes when exposed to light and/or heat stimuli. “Robots are wonderful tools, but when you need something to examine a delicate structure, such as inside the human body, you want a “squishy” robot rather than the typical devices we think of with interlocking gears and sharp edges,” said Balazs.

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