Researchers at the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR) in Hong Kong have developed a robotic system for minimally invasive brain surgery. The centerpiece is the “MicroNeuro” robot, which is designed to provide doctors with precise and gentle treatment. This is made possible by the use of metal 3D printing for miniature components.
According to the CAIR developers, brain surgery places special demands on surgeons due to sensitive tissue and limited space. MicroNeuro is designed to help here: The system combines technologies such as flexible endoscopy, precise motion control, augmented reality and AI.
At its heart is a kind of “digital twin” of the surgical site. Real-time sensor data enables the precise positioning of the actual surgical field and digital structural information to be superimposed. This enables doctors to work more precisely and safely.
Industrial metal 3D printing technology plays a key role in the implementation. According to the CAIR experts, this makes it possible to create delicate yet robust components for MicroNeuro. One example is the functional tips of the endoscope, which are only 3 millimetres thick. These contain optics, lighting, instrument channels and force sensors and could thus be miniaturized.
The complex micro parts were produced by the Chinese company Bright Laser Technologies (BLT). Their 3D metal printers enabled efficient series production. According to CAIR, consistent quality and delivery reliability were decisive factors in the decision.
The researchers are already planning further medical applications for the future. According to their own assessment, the design freedom of 3D printing is ideal here – provided the right production solution is available.