Chinese researchers report embedded robots

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image: Setup of an 8-DOF robot system for ultrasound-guided percutaneous prostate intervention.
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Credit: Jiawen YAN, Bo PAN, Yili FU

A research team from Harbin Institute of Technology has proposed a novel efficient robotic system for ultrasound-guided percutaneous prostate intervention. The 8-joint robotic system can realize fully automatic control for prostate insertion, which can be potentially applied to prostate diagnosis and treatment such as biopsy and brachytherapy. This study can be found in the journal Frontiers of Mechanical Engineering on January 27, 2022.

As the group of patients with prostate disease increases dramatically in recent years, the new rigid robot system offers a promising alternative for the automatic intervention process with less attempts and traumas, and also less dependent on operator experience.

“The compact system utilizes the limited space for the prostate insertion operation. The robot system contains 8 joints for independent control of ultrasound probe manipulation, positioning and needle insertion. The parallel structure used, above all, can avoid a potential collision between the structure and the patient,” said Assistant Professor Bo Pan, the author of the study.

The research group of Profs. Yili Fu and Bo Pan are among the pioneering research groups studying medical image-guided surgical robot systems in China. Robotic systems are designed to meet the complex demands of surgical processes and increase the success rate. “Applying intelligent systems to help doctors perform operations with reduced difficulty is an effective approach to improving our medical treatment process,” Pan said. And this time, the study group is focusing on the ultrasound-guided prostate insertion process.

Ultrasound-guided prostatic insertion is a procedure generally used to diagnose and treat prostate diseases. During the insertion process, a doctor must scan the gland, insert the needle, and check for accuracy at the same time. A tablet can help doctors reduce the difficulty of the operation; however, this limits insertion flexibility. Additionally, repetitive attempts are usually required to increase accuracy, resulting in greater trauma and patient discomfort. The 8-joint robot system proposed in this work aims to realize the whole process automatically.

“The difficult point is that the system must contain all the necessary functions with a compact and rigid design,” Pan explained. The newly designed system accommodates an ultrasound probe and an insertion needle. The transrectal ultrasound probe can be manipulated to insert and rotate for prostate scanning; the needle can be oriented and positioned for setting adjustment, and automatically inserted according to the operator’s command. All movements are independent to achieve high flexibility. The design also considered the general requirements of medical robot design, such as self-locking and ease of sterilization.

“The parallel structure for needle lay adjustment is a novel design and increases the rigidity of the system. However, it also requires careful calibration,” Pan said. Calibration is the process of identifying parameters of the model and is important for precise control. Calibration of parallel structures cannot be achieved using one-size-fits-all approaches, and an effective approach is usually tied to the specific model. In the work, the researchers propose an optimization particle swarms based on informative parameter values ​​(InfoPSO) for identification of errors in the calibration process.PSO is a nonlinear optimization method with fast computational speed, but the likelihood of computational results cannot be guaranteed without real-time supervision Combined with the characteristics of the parameters, the identification accuracy can be improved.

In the work, the research group built a prototype to show the functionality. Verification experiments prove that the robotic system is capable of performing the movements necessary for the targeting process. By applying the calibration method, a reasonable and reliable control process is built, and the average error can be limited to 0.963mm for the insertion point, 1.846mm for the target point.

“There is a long way to go from a prototype to a product, especially for a medical device. But all efforts bring us closer. In the next step, we will focus on improving stiffness and elaborate manufacturing and assembly. The work promises to be applied in practice one day in the near future,” Pan said confidently. The research team will continue to improve the design of robot systems and realize more medical robot systems.

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Reference: Jiawen YAN, Bo PAN, Yili FU. Robotic system for percutaneous intervention of the prostate guided by ultrasound and calibration by optimization of a swarm of informative particles. Before. Mech. Eng., 2022, 17(1): 3 https://doi.org/10.1007/s11465-021-0659-x

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On Frontiers of Mechanical Engineering

Frontiers of Mechanical Engineering is a peer-reviewed international academic journal sponsored by the Ministry of Education of China. The journal seeks to provide a forum for a wide range of high-quality scholarly articles to promote rapid communication and exchange among researchers, scientists, and engineers in the field of mechanical engineering. The journal publishes original research articles, review articles and feature articles. The journal covers all major branches of mechanical engineering, including (but not limited to): machines and mechanisms, gears and transmissions, dynamics of mechanical systems, mechanical structures and stress analysis, tribology and surface technology, mechanical design and bionics, machining processes and technologies, automation manufacturing, precision engineering, mechatronics and embedded systems, micro/nano manufacturing and systems, robotics, sensing, MEMS and green manufacturing.

The editors are Academician Zheng You from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, China, Academician Dongming Guo from Dalian University of Technology, China. The journal has been indexed by SCI, SCOPUS, INSPEC, Astrophysics Data System (ADS), Google Scholar, CSA, Academic OneFile, Chinese Science Citation Database, Expanded Academic, Gale, OCLC, Summon by ProQuest, etc.


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