Exploring non-assembly 3D printing for novel compliant surgical devices

Costanza Culmone*, Paul W.J. Henselmans, Remi I.B. van Starkenburg, Paul Breedveld

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
65 Downloads (Pure)


In minimally invasive surgery, maneuverability is usually limited and a large number of degrees of freedom (DOF) is highly demanded. However, increasing the DOF usually means increasing the complexity of the surgical instrument leading to long fabrication and assembly times. In this work, we propose the first fully 3D printed handheld, multi-steerable device. The proposed device is mechanically actuated, and possesses five serially controlled segments. We designed a new compliant segment providing high torsion and axial stiffness as well as a low bending stiffness by merging the functions of four helicoids and a continuum backbone. Compliant segments were combined to form the compliant shaft of the new device. In order to control this compliant shaft, a control handle was designed that mimics the shaft structure. A prototype called the HelicoFlex was built using only three 3D printed parts. HelicoFlex, with its 10 degrees of freedom, showed a fluid motion in performing single and multi-curved paths. The multi-steerable instrument was 3D printed without any support material in the compliant shaft itself. This work contributes to enlarge the body of knowledge regarding how additive manufacturing could be used in the production of multi-steerable surgical instruments for personalized medicine.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0232952
Number of pages21
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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