Novel self-propelled soft worm like endoscopic robot

Introduction:

 

Academics at King’s College London have developed a novel worm-inspired, multi-segment robotic endoscope with multiple degrees of freedom segments. The novelty of this design is that the robot is able to drive forwards and backwards, anchor itself, steer while inside a tubular structure and control the orientation of an end-mounted camera all by bending its flexible segments.

 

Colorectal cancer accounts for approximately 10% of all known cancer cases worldwide and is therefore a serious cost to health services. There is evidence to suggest that fear of discomfort is a significant reason for patients not attending regular bowel screenings. As regular screenings are one of the best and most effective methods of preventing bowel cancer, the fact that only a little over half of the patients eligible for screening refuse to undergo colonoscopy impairs the effort of screening programs.

 

Finding a more comfortable alternative to traditional push endoscopes could significantly increase participation in regular pre-screenings. Worm-like robots present exactly such an alternative to push endoscopes and research towards improving worm-like robotic endoscope design could have significant impact on people’s health and wellbeing.

 

A number of other technologies including the proposed design have been suggested to address this issue. Below is a review of features of these as well as the proposed technology.

 

 

 

Key features:

 

•       Active Steering: Bending the end segments allows the robot to guide itself through the sharp bends found in the human colon.

•       Force Control: The force exerted by each of the bending segments on the lumen wall can be controlled to avoid excessive stress on the colon wall, increasing safety.

•       Soft Structure: The body of the robot is soft and compliant, allowing it to conform to the shape of the colon, reducing discomfort.

•       Adaptability: The diameter of the colon varies significantly across its length. The lengths and bending angles of each of the end segments can be actively controlled to allow the robot to adapt to changing colon geometries.

•       Stiffness Control: Compressing each segment causes the passive stiffness of the segment to increase. Thus, the stiffness of each segment can be increased during anchoring. Similarly, the segment’s stiffness can be decreased when moving through a tight bend, allowing the segment to easily conform to the shape of the colon.

 

IP status:

 

UK priority application

 

Technology Status:

 

A prototype of the technology has been developed to demonstrate Proof of concept

 

Diagrams:

Prototype figures: Locomtion technique (top), Worm design (below)

 

Patent Information:
Category(s):
Medical devices
For Information, Contact:
Mugdha Joshi
IP & Licensing Manager
King's College London
mugdha.joshi@kcl.ac.uk
Inventors:
Hongbin Liu
Julius Bernth
Keywords: