Surgical robots are becoming more of a standard in operating rooms. As such, device designers are going to need to understand the motion control technology that makes them function. This article looks at the “sheet music” that offers the guidance to the “conductor” who is instructing the “instruments.”

To understand how motors, motion controllers and microprocessors work in harmony to produce a robotic surgical system that can assist physicians with surgical procedures, it’s helpful to think of an orchestra.

The motion controller within the surgical robot can be compared to the orchestra’s conductor and the motor as an instrument. In order to unify the instruments (motors), set the tempo, or execute clear instructions, the conductor (motion controller) needs a musical score to follow. This is why the microprocessor is so essential. The microprocessor is the sheet music that the conductor follows to instruct the instruments.

Most technology has advanced significantly in the past decade due, in large part, to innovations in microprocessors. Microprocessors are small silicon chips that contain millions of tiny components that work together to process a sequential flow of precise instructions at speeds of millions—or even billions—of times a second. These instructions tell the machine what to do, how to do it, and when to do it.

Without motors and motion control, it would be impossible for the instructions to be carried out—just as there wouldn’t be any music if there was no conductor or instruments to perform it.

10-axis motion controller (MAXnet-A000)Motion controllers that can control complex motion profiles with power and speed have long been used in other industry sectors, such as semiconductors and industrial applications. For example, industrial applications that use overhead cranes to pick up heavy material need the ability to move on multiple axes with tight, accurate, repeatable motion.

This is why innovators of surgical robots are pursuing well-established companies with extensive experience providing multi-axis motion control solutions. Whether it’s a hip replacement, tumor removal, or heart surgery, a surgical robot must be able to move steadily along complex planes, seamlessly and without error. To help reduce trauma to the patient and improve the recovery and cosmetic outcome, the robotic arms must be able to move around fixed pivot points. To maximize effectiveness, the robot’s instruments must be able to accurately move at micro-motions that the human wrist is not capable of. And because the micro process of each instrument has been coded to perform a specific surgical mission (e.g., clamping, suturing, and tissue manipulation), the motion controller must be able to work synergistically with the motor to execute those diverse movements accurately and without error.

In order to make a surgical robot that will help doctors perform to their highest standards and ensure a safe, accurate procedure, the motion capabilities of the robot must be fluid, precise, and flexible. This requires wide-ranging expertise in designing technologically advanced multi-axis motion controllers.

Surgical robots are a powerful tool to assist surgeons by increasing their vision, precision, dexterity and control. But that is only possible if several key components, including high-tech microprocessors, multi-axis motion controllers, and motors work in harmony to perform their part.