3D Steering: Additive Manufacturing in Snake-Like Surgical Devices

Research output: ThesisDissertation (TU Delft)

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The minimally invasive approach has revolutionized the standard in surgery. In conventional open procedures, the surgeon exposes the diseased area with a relatively large incision. Contrary to conventional surgery, in minimally invasive surgery, several small incisions are used to insert the surgical instruments and reach the target area, reducing the risk of infections and surgical trauma. The surgical instruments currently used are straight and rigid, allowing only straight paths to be followed. An alternative is passively flexible instruments, such as endoscopes and catheters, that require external guidance, e.g., the blood vessel wall, and therefore cannot provide a stable platform to operate. Areas with a high density, like the brain, or situations that demand to actively decide the path to follow, such as in the peripheral bronchi of the lungs, require snake-like instruments that are able to follow multi-curved paths and can maintain their position without external support. Because of the great potential advantages that these types of instruments could offer and because of the new surgical possibilities that might be explored, companies and researchers are working on creating solutions. However, the complexity of such instruments creates difficulties in the surgical implementation and remain a major challenge.

In this context, additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, offers a new paradigm for design, manufacturing, and assembly, allowing the production of complex geometries difficult to produce with conventional manufacturing. Using additive manufacturing might help to solve some of the major challenges in snake-like surgical instruments, such as a large number of components and long assembly time. Therefore, the main purpose of the research described in this thesis, is to explore how the combination of additive manufacturing and mechanical solutions can help in designing snake-like instruments, while minimizing the assembly and device complexity.

This thesis is organized into three parts as the main components of a snake-like surgical instrument: Part I, Control, focuses on the control side of the instrument with particular attention to mechanical solutions. Part II, Shaft, focuses on the possibility of fabricating snake-like instruments with additive manufacturing technology, and Part III, End-Effector, on the use of 3D printing to enhance end-effector functions.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Delft University of Technology
  • Breedveld, P., Supervisor
  • Smit, G., Advisor
Award date28 Sep 2022
Print ISBNs978-94-6384-370-6
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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