Pangolin-Inspired Medical Robots

We’ve been seeing a lot of humanoid robots in the headlines, but there are still plenty of other types of robot innovations. One, a tiny metal item just 2 centimeters long, was inspired by a pangolin.

Pangolin inspiration

Biomimicry, robotic design inspired by various kinds of animals, is a major theme in robotics. Scientists have looked to kangaroos, wallabies, octopi, and lizards for inspiration, so why not pangolins?

The pangolin is a scaly, insect-eating mammal found in Asia and Africa. Though it is covered in scales, it can roll up into a ball. The pangolin-inspired computer can also roll — that’s its superpower. A tiny soft robot designed to be used untethered, it can carry medications and use its remarkable flexibility to make its way into areas of the body that are hard for surgeons to reach safely.

Scales made of keratin allow the robot the degree of flexibility it needs, because they are arranged in overlapping patterns like those of a pangolin. The researchers experimented with different ratios of overlap and different sizes of scales to find the optimum pattern. They attached the scales to a magnetic tape with beeswax, which can safely be used inside the human body. This type of wax becomes liquid with heat and then resolidifies in a colder environment. They simulated its use in the GI tract, where it could be expelled along with wastes.

Radio waves can cause the miniature robot to heat up. Since radio waves can penetrate bodily tissues safely, this is a good method of actuating a robot used inside the body.

Medical robots

Robot-assisted surgery has been around for years now, but untethered robots are a new frontier in medicine. Being able to transport substances to specific places within the body could be less invasive and therefore less dangerous than surgery. The researchers foresee that their robots could be used in cancer treatments and other types of procedures as well.

As robots become ever more ubiquitous in every facet of our lives, we are amazed to see how many facilities still use Indramat motion control systems. We specialize in these drive and control systems, so we are the people to call when you need service and support for your Indramat systems. Call now for immediate assistance.