24/7 Customer Service (800) 927-7671

Researchers Use Origami to Design Tiny 3D Printed Surgical Instruments

by • March 7, 2016 • No Comments

craneWhen I was in elementary school, I read a book called Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, which tells the true story of a young Japanese girl who contracted leukemia of the radiation left by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. According to a Japanese legend, anyone who manages to make 1,000 origami cranes can be granted a wish, and Sadako began folding her cranes in hopes which she may be cured of her leukemia. Tragically, Sadako passed away, but her story has always stayed with me, and it’s what I thought of when I learned of a team of scientists at Brigham Young University who are via the principles of origami to turn it into tiny, 3D printed surgical tools.

Origami has in fact been utilized to inspire several innovations in 3D printing and robotics not long ago. There’s robogami, tiny crawling robots which fold themselves, and folding electronic structures which may improve radio frequency devices. Brigham Young University professors Larry Howell, Spencer Magleby, and Brian Jensen, along with their mechanical engineering students, are now via the ancient Japanese art to turn it into robotic surgical tools which can fit through incisions as tiny as three millimeters wide.


An incision which tiny can heal on its own, eliminating the require for sutures – and scars. Not just which, but these tiny robotic tools can allow for additional exact and effective surgeries. But, sizeabler tools are requireed as well, and which’s where origami comes in. The surgical instruments are turn it intoed to be tiny and flat when they are inserted through the incision, but once they are within the body, they unfold and expand into harsh devices such as the D-Core, a tool which, once within the body, unfolds into two rolling discs which mimic the movement of spinal discs. (You can read additional of the D-Core in a study published in Science Direct.)

Howell and Magleby have utilized the origami concept in their work in other industries, as well. They’ve done a lot of engineering work for NASA, which include the creation of a solar array tiny adequate to be stored on a spacecraft, but which expands to 10 times its dimensions once it is launched into space. According to Magleby, the concept is the same for surgical tools.


“Those who turn it into spacecraft want their products to be tiny and small in size for the reason space is at a premium on a spacecraft, but once you get in space, they want those same products to be sizeable, such as solar arrays or antennas,” he said. “There’s a much like thought here: We’d like a thing to get quite tiny to go through the incision, but once it’s within, we’d like it to get much sizeabler.”

devicesThe BYU team is collaborating with Intuitive Surgical, creators of the da Vinci Surgical System, which utilizes a multiple-armed robot to perform minimally invasive surgeries. Whilst the da Vinci process may already uses quite tiny tools, surgeons have discovered which actually tinyer ones are requireed, but traditional turn it into has may already gone of as tiny as it can go. The origami concept not just allows for for tinyer tools, but it in addition eliminates the require for extraneous parts like pin joints; the tools are flexible adequate to move and bend without them.

The researchers have been via 3D printing to prototype the surgical instruments. Not just does 3D printing enable the make of tools with less parts, but it in addition allows for for prototypes to be turn it intoed, printed, and taken to the lab in less than a day. This gives the team a lot of room for experimentation with various shapes and constructions; according to Magleby, the goal is not just to make the tools tinyer but to make them easier.

“These tiny instruments can allow for a whole new range of surgeries to be performed—hopefully one day manipulating things as tiny as nerves,” Magleby said. “The origami-inspired thoughts quite assist us to see how to make things tinyer and tinyer and to make them easier and easier.”

Origami may not have saved Sadako, but thanks to the creativity of these scientists, it may potentially save most others.