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The objective of this article is to present the dimensional synthesis of serial and
parallel spherical wrists, an important step in the design process of medical robots. This
step is carried out to obtain optimal dimensions of tool-guidance medical robots. With
this goal, we have first studied the specifications of two robots with different medical
applications: one for tele-echography examination and one for minimally invasive surgery.
Then, we have established that the medical needs expressed by the doctors were very
different but the specifications in robotic terms have a lot of common points (kinematics,
workspace, bulkiness). For both applications studied, robots need a mobility of three
rotations around a fixed point (probe contact point on the patient’s skin or trocar
incision). So, a spherical wrist architecture is adapted to their needs. An important
constraint related to medical applications is that the robot must be compact in order to
not obstruct or collide with its environment (medical personnel or patient). We perform
dimensional synthesis allowing determination of dimensions of the mechanism for serial and
parallel spherical wrists, for a tele-echography robot, and a serial wrist for a minimally
invasive surgery robot. We use multi-criteria optimization methods minimizing a cost
function to obtain both good kinematic performance and compactness for the architecture.
The difficulty/challenge of this design process, depending of the studied applications, is
the choice of efficient criteria describing the performances and the constraints of the
robot. The design variables must faithfully represent the specifications of the robot so
that its performance can respond to the medical requirements. We show, here, the different
methods used for optimizing the chosen kinematic architecture for the particular medical
application. These studies lead to prototypes which are validated after medical
experiments. This process of dimensional synthesis will be applied to other medical
applications with different sets of specified constraints.
The transmission electron microscope (TEM) is one of the most useful tools available to the materials scientist. Yet both the complexity and expense of the equipment, and the huge investment in time necessary to become proficient in specimen preparation and image acquisition and analysis, mean that it is difficult for most industrial institutions to maintain a state-of-the-art TEM facility. How can industry overcome this problem? One solution is to set up a collaboration with a university, an industrial partner, or a government research laboratory. Such collaborations can be extremely valuable to the company, which gains access to microscopes, specimen-preparation equipment and the expertise of professional microscopists, and to the research laboratory, which benefits from the industrial perspective and the private sector's proficiency in materials preparation and processing.
Such collaborations exist, and they can produce excellent results. In this article, we present three case studies in which successful collaboration has occurred between industry and one of the Department of Energy's scientific user facilities, the National Center for Electron Microscopy (NCEM-see sidebar). Our aim is not only to describe results that we hope will be of scientific interest but also to encourage industrial researchers to consider collaborations with institutes such as NCEM.
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