Actin Solves Problems Associated With Developing Medical Robotics

Brett Limone
Aug 5, 2021 7:37:03 AM

What are some of the common challenges with developing medical robotics? 

Developing systems that are used for medical purposes including surgeries, medical imagery, cancer therapy, physical therapy, and telemedicine require enormous amounts of engineering effort and years of development. Each of these types of systems pose unique challenges in the areas of mechanical design, motion planning/control, force control/accommodation, software architecture, user interfacing and ergonomics, haptics, solving medical/clinical problem at hand, and legal/regulatory issues in bringing the technology to market. Exceptionally large multidisciplinary teams are required to tackle all these challenges.   

There are many questions that arise when designing a robotic system hardware and structure: 

  • How many degrees of freedom are required for this task?
  • Can the system reach everywhere it needs to?
  • How accurate must each component of the hardware be?
  • How much payload do I need to move with the arm/ mechanism?
  • How much force/ torque does each actuator need to apply to move this payload?

With any robot design, there are control problems that challenge the system developer: 

  • How do I get the system to move the way I want?
  • Will I be able to control this system in a coordinated way?
  • Will my motion be optimized around the design of the system?  
  • How do I prevent collisions, joint limits, and singularities?  
  • How do I define how I want the system to move?  
  • What are the constraints I’m trying to solve?  

Other control problems might include force control of the robot, or enabling gravity compensated or “teach” modes allowing users to manually move the arm directly rather than jogging through a software interface or input device.  

  • What if the robot encounters a large disturbance force?  
  • What behavior should this system have?  

With any robot system design, there are software architecture challenges as well. Picture2

  • Do I need to solve these motion problems online or offline?  
  • How fast must the software communicate with hardware? 
  • Where in the system must this motion controller run? 
  • Does my HMI need to run on the same operating system as my controller? 
  • How would they communicate with each other reliably? 

The algorithms to solve the motion control problem are complicated and determining where these must be solved within a system is another challenge. When working with multiple devices such as real time computers, sensors, servo drives + amplifiers, as well as user interfaces and user input devices it is required to have a properly designed software architecture that can communicate with all these devices reliably and recover from faults safely.   

How can Energid/Actin help address these challenges?  

Energid’s Actin software is a proven tool commonly used in the development of custom arms and manipulators for many applications including subsea, industrial, oil and gas, and the medical industry.  

Actin can help mitigate control problems

One way Actin can help developers is with the included simulation tool. These tools allow users to quickly start with a CAD model, either a prototype model or a production model, and convert it into an interactive simulation. This simulation can provide invaluable insights, allowing developers to assess potential performance before ever building a prototype. These simulations can test reach, speeds, as well as payloads (if a dynamic simulation is performed).   

Actin can solve challenges associated with designing the robotic system hardware and structure

The control system configured in simulation can later be used in the hardware deployment phase.  With this simulation, developers can also prototype their user interface design, as well as input/control devices that may ultimately be used for driving the robot. These tools allow for very fast concept development, and fast prototype development. Often, customers use the simulation developed with Actin to acquire the next round of funding and develop a hardware prototype quickly after.  

Actin can simplify force control Good medical pic

Actin architectures allow for real time online control of the servo drives. Actin’s ability to solve the motion problem in real-time allows the systems to be teleoperated by a user or the motion to be influenced by other sensors such as force/torque sensors and vision systems.   

Actin can resolve software architecture problems  

Actin can be integrated in any robotics project. Depending how the user wants to control the robot, Actin can fulfill offline and online control, which allows full flexibility of the application. If the robot is controlled online, Actin can meet high speed controller requirements of robots. This allows Actin to be fully embedded into any project, thus allowing endless capabilities. 

Actin can run on the QNX real time operating system. This RTOS is commonly used in medical devices and robots. QNX has a version pre-certified for medical applications. Actin can quickly be configured to control industry standard high performance EtherCAT servo drives. EtherCAT allows for fast, high-speed communication with any number of devices, which might be robot servos or input sensors.    

Actin’s ability to support these systems allows for fast development of medical robots.  If you are in need of a software development kit that allows you to configure simulations before development or real time control, then Actin is for you. To learn more about how Actin can help you, click here. 

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