Flexibility is one of the most fundamental priorities for robotics, but it takes on entirely new significance in medical applications, where a single motion can quite literally make the difference between life and death. Taiwan’s Hiwin Technologies hopes to stack the odds in favor of the former with the automated surgery unit revealed in its latest patent filing.
The two cylindrical motors sticking out from the bottom of the robot’s base, over on the far left side of the diagram, drive the knuckle joints that control the movement of the limb. The overall structure is not unlike a human arm, with three major rotary components corresponding to the shoulder, elbow and wrist joined by fingers, in this case the sole-shaped surgical instrument holder at the tip.
In a real-life scenario where the robot would be situated upright on its base next to the operating table, the arm would be able to rotate the instrument above the patient to carry out procedures. The complex network of steel wire and tension adjusters that transmits power from the motors require the entire limb to reposition for the latter links to move, but its range of motion actually benefits:
That’s due to the fact all this wiring still takes up considerably less space than a more traditional setup with a dedicated motor attached to each joint, which makes the arm smaller and thus more adept at maneuvering in the limited sphere of action around an operating table. The reduced footprint has the added benefit of removing the need for any human surgeons working along the bot to dodge around its movements, which streamlines the entire procedure.