Soft Robot-assisted Endoscopic Surgery

Project Title: Soft Robot-assisted Endoscopic Surgery

Project Duration: May 22 – July 28, 2017 (10 weeks), 40 hours per week.

Project Mentors:

  • Primary Faculty Mentor (Name, Affiliation, website and Email/Phone):

Zion Tsz Ho Tse, PhD, Assistant Prof of Medical Devices, College of Engineering, UGA,

Email:                                             Tel: 706-542-4189


  • Secondary Faculty Mentor (Name, Affiliation, website and Email/Phone):

Johnathan Murrow, MD, Athens Regional Medical Center, Assistant Prof of Medicine, GRU/UGA Medical Partnership

Email:                                            Tel: 706-475-1700


  • Graduate Student/PostDoc mentors (Name, Affiliation and Email/Phone):

Kevin Wu, Austin Taylor, Medical Robotics Lab, College of Engineering, UGA

Email: ,                    Tel: 706-542-4189


Project Description:

Soft robotics is a new and unique system for designing and creating the next generation of medical devices [1]. With soft robotics, silicone-based structures can be controlled and driven simply using tubing and air pressure [2]. In this project, we will design soft robotics to improve clinical endoscopic procedures.


Endoscopic procedures are frequently used for surgery and diagnostics because they allow physicians to see remote, delicate, and constricted areas of the human body. However, because current endoscopes are metallic and rigid, manipulation can be difficult and errors can result in injury, such as puncturing an internal organ [3]. Soft, flexible materials could potentially be used to create an endoscope which would be inexpensive to produce, simple to operate, and safer for patients while maintaining the same—or increased—level of functionality as traditional metallic endoscopes.


The goal of this project is to create a silicone-based endoscope which can be powered and navigated through the human body by controlling air pressure. In our previous work, we began designing actuators which change in shape as they fill up with air (fig. 1); these actuators will be placed inside the endoscope and used for steering.

Fig. 1 Behavior of endoscope actuators as percent inflating increases. Prototypes (a), (b), and (c) have different wall thicknesses. Prototype (c) performed the best, with 360° curvature at 100% inflation.

In the proposed REU project, we will evaluate the performance of endoscopes created with different fabrication methods and identify a fabrication method that produces endoscopes with good controllability and range of motion. Our aim is to optimize the design geometry for medical use in terms of endoscope flexibility and dexterity. We plan to approach this aim through modeling and analyzing the silicone-based endoscope structure as well as experimental validations with different fabrication designs.


REU Student Role and Responsibility:

Fig. 2 Mold for endoscope actuator fabrication; printed with Uprint 3D printer.

Over the course of the REU program, the student will assist in the optimization of a silicone-based endoscope. The student’s project includes modeling the endoscope structure, analyzing alternate geometries, and using different fabrication methods to prototype endoscope designs. The student will gain experience in AutoCAD and 3D printing (in our previous work, we 3D printed the molds used to fabricate endoscope actuator prototypes, where the 3D printing design will be further optimized for endoscopic applications—see fig. 2). Weekly meetings with mentors will aid in the guidance of the REU student.


Expected Outcome for REU student:

The student’s work will contribute to the development of publications, aimed for submission as a conference paper in the Design of Medical Devices (DMD) conference. Upon completion of the entire project, a comprehensive paper on the device will be submitted for journal publication. The device may also be in consideration for commercialization pending experimental outcomes.



[1] D. Trivedi, C. D. Rahn, W. M. Kier, and I. D. Walker, “Soft robotics: Biological inspiration, state of the art, and future research,” Applied Bionics and Biomechanics, vol. 5, pp. 99-117, 2008.


[3] L. E. Moore, “The advantages and disadvantages of endoscopy,” Clinical techniques in small animal practice, vol. 18, pp. 250-253, 2003.