Case study: Revolutionising the future of surgery with high-precision robots

By Alejandro González (ERNI Spain)

The healthcare industry is continuously evolving, and with technological advancements, robots are becoming increasingly prevalent in our daily lives, including in the healthcare sector. One such area where robots are making a significant impact is in the field of surgery, particularly in minimally invasive laparoscopic procedures.

Within this field, ERNI is collaborating with a company that specialises in developing robots for minimally invasive surgery, aiming to universalise high-precision surgeries to enhance patient care. Our customer has built a state-of-the-art robot designed to support surgeons in performing more accurate and efficient surgeries. ERNI is contributing to making the software to control the robot. The robot comprises two subsystems – the Console Unit, where the surgeon controls the robot, and the Robotic Unit, where the arm movement is executed according to the surgeon’s control movement. The robot is designed specifically for laparoscopic surgeries, and the surgeon can view the laparoscope image on a 3D display located on the Console Unit.

The robot is versatile and can be used in various medical fields, including urology, gynaecology and gastrointestinal interventions, which are the most common and crucial surgeries that can be performed using the laparoscopic technique. The precision and accuracy of the robot are unparalleled, as the robotic arms replicate the surgeon’s movements with an error lower than 1mm in translation and lower than 1º in orientation.

As a medical device, obtaining the necessary certifications guarantees the product’s quality and ensures its hospital usage. The product is classified as a Class III Medical Device, the highest and most complex classification possible, as its use can lead to severe injuries or even death of the patient. Hence, everything must be analysed and studied following stringent regulations. One of the challenges encountered in this effort is that a group of about 25 experts from multiple companies work together in a single location to design and develop all the mechanics, electronics and software for the client. Hence, effective coordination between all the team members and other involved teams is essential in achieving the project’s goals on time. Developing such a complex product requires strong leadership, smart communication, and cooperation to succeed as a team.

ERNI experts are an integral part of the team and make up a crucial part of the robot’s success. Our experts are involved in all areas of the development lifecycle from the management of the software team, including software requirements elicitation, risk analysis, software architecture and software development to software testing and software state reporting.

As of now, the robot has entered the preclinical assay phase and is on track to be ready for the medical market by next year. The aim is to obtain the CE mark in mid-2024, guaranteeing safe surgeries for patients in the near future. Coming up next, the customer plans to integrate artificial intelligence, computer vision and data analysis into the robot to further enhance its capabilities. In conclusion, the successful collaboration between ERNI and our customer will help revolutionise invasive surgery. With the use of high-precision robots, surgeries are set to become more accurate, efficient and safe for patients, ultimately improving patient care. The product is a testament to the power of technology in the healthcare industry, and we can only expect more exciting advancements in the future.

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