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Mechanical Engineering

Research Groups: Surgical Robotics

Research

Advanced Robotics and Mechanism Applications (ARMA)
Professor Nabil Simaan

The Advanced Robotics and Mechanism Applications (ARMA) lab is focused on the design of new mechanical robotic architectures. The main focus of the appliactions is on surgical assitance. We investigate algorithms of control and design of sensory mechaisms for enabling new procedures and for supporting intelligent and safe interaction with the anatomy. Existing and past research projects include synthesis of novel robotic systems for surgical assistance in confined spaces with applications to minimally invasive surgery of the throat, natural orifice surgery, single port access surgery, design of steerable electrode arrays and robotic path planning for cochlear implant surgery, dexterous bimanual microsurgery of the retina, and trans-urethreal surgical intervention. Theoretical aspects of the research include theoretical kinematics of mechanisms, synthesis and optimization of robots and mechanisms including flexible snake robots, design of flexure mechanisms and flexible robots, parallel robots, applications of line geometry tools and screw theory for analysis and synthesis of robotic devices, applications of actuation redundancy and kinematic redundancy for stiffness control (modulation), applications of algebraic geometry methods for polynomial system solving related to mechanism designs, optimal path planing and insertion of flexible under actuated robots.

ARMA has projects funded by the NIH, NSF, and industry. Both graduate and undergraduate students are provided a unique education with a rare balance between design, control, system integration, and theoretical modeling of novel robotic systems. The lab facility has a full array of mechanical and electronic fabrication capabilities.  Full descrfiption of the lab activities is provided at http://arma.vuse.vanderbilt.edu/

Medical Engineering and Discovery Laboratory

Professor Robert J. Webster III

The MED lab is a place where doctors and engineers work side by side to create new lifesaving medical technologies. We design and construct devices (often robots, but also useful non-robotic devices) to make interventional medicine more accurate, less invasive, and more effective. With a world-class medical center a 5-minute walk from the lab, we are often in operating rooms observing surgical procedures and conducting experiments with the devices we build. We also patent our work, which enables us to transfer it to commercial products, amplifying its real-world impact. Our partners include startup companies such as Pathfinder Theraputics and Acoustic MedSystems, as well as larger companies including Intuitive Surgical and MathWorks. Current major projects include a surgical robot with tentacle-like, needle-diameter arms that removes tumors from the center of the head through the nose (partnership with Neurosurgery), a parallel robot that reduces invasiveness in cochlear implant surgery which restores hearing to the deaf (partnership with Otolanrygology), as well as robotic systems to improve lung surgery, prostate surgery, and several different neurosurgical procedures. We often combine medical images, mechanics-based models, and advanced sensors and actuators to help doctors treat their patients more effectively. Graduate and undergraduate students in the MED Lab receive a unique educational experience in which they work side by side with surgeons, and are encouraged to pursue not only ongoing lab projects, but also their own ideas as they learn to be innovators in surgical engineering and robotics.