The automation of instruments and tools (e.g. bone drill) or robotic devices (e.g. needle positioning robot for prostate surgery) for use in interventional MRI (iMRI) is still challenging due to a lack of accurate, affordable and completely metal-free actuators and motors. Inspired by biological muscles, a bionic equivalent known as the fluid muscle actuator (which can be operated pneumatically or hydraulically) is well-known in the mechanical engineering industry. Fluid muscle actuators have multiple beneficial characteristics: they are simple, self-returning, low-friction and can produce relatively high actuation forces at low diameters and pressures. We present two novel designs for metal-free, pneumatic stepper motors for potential application in iMRI. Our stepper motors are powered by simple pneumatic muscles, which are assembled from low-cost off-the-shelf components. Besides, the components of the stepper motor demonstrators were 3Dprinted using a stereolithographic additive manufacturing process (SLA printing). We evaluate the effect of pneumatic muscle length on contractile force and length. Our results demonstrated the functional feasibility of the pneumatic muscle-powered and fully MRI-compatible stepper motor designs. In a next step, we will optimize the motor´s design, characterize their performance and reliability, and use the stepper motors to power a micropositioning device in iMRI-phantom tests.
© 2019 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston
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