Bright Laser Technologies (BLT), located in Xi’an, China, has additively manufactured multifunctional distal head caps for MicroNeuro, reportedly the world’s first flexible robotic system for minimally invasive brain surgery. This system was developed by the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics; the Hong Kong Institute of Science & Innovation; and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAIR). It recently won the inaugural BOCHK Hong Kong Science and Technology Innovation Prize.
MicroNeuro integrates technologies such as multilevel flexible endoscopy; high-precision, control augmented reality surgical navigation; and AI, which can address the challenges of fragile brain tissue, limited space, and difficult surgical operations, making the surgical process more intuitive via digital twin technology.
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“The multifunctional distal head caps used in MicroNeuro serve the vital purpose of fixing and installing image units, lighting units, instrument channels, and other components,” a representative of CAIR stated. “Furthermore, we’ve integrated force sensing functionality into an only 3 mm outer diameter endoscope, and the optical fibres used also need to be fixed to the tip. As it boasts an intricate design, with the thinnest sections measuring a mere 0.15 mm in wall thickness, conventional processing methods often grapple with challenges like positioning difficulties, processing intricacies, and the risk of deformation.”
“We are glad that the 3D printing and the BLT team helped produce this precise component. In the future, we may need to integrate irregular channels such as flushing lenses and suction and irrigation on this structural component. Therefore, we believe that metal 3D printing is the only low-cost, high-precision production method for this type of part,” CAIR added.
The MicroNeuro multifunctional distal head caps are created using the BLT-A160D Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion (PBF-LB) Additive Manufacturing machine from 316L stainless steel. This machine reportedly produced 1,190 multifunctional distal head caps within a five-hour time frame. The machine’s consistent performance enables product quality to be maintained across different batches and machines, thus increasing the efficiency and overall quality of batch production. The surface roughness requirements were met by implementing a post-processing polishing stage.
“BLT has played a pivotal role in providing high-quality metal 3D printing services, assisting us in the development of critical components including flexible endoscopes, multi-cavity rigid sheath endoscopes, and heterotypic water guide tubes,” a CAIR engineer stated. “BLT’s integrated Additive Manufacturing solution has significantly streamlined the design of MicroNeuro, enhancing its convenience, flexibility, and structural compactness. We will continue to maintain a long-term and mutually beneficial partnership with BLT, as they have consistently demonstrated professionalism and attentiveness in addressing our needs and inquiries, contributing significantly to the development of MicroNeuro. In the future, we hope to continue to promote the application of metal 3D printing technology in our other research projects and foster even closer collaboration with BLT.”