Origami technology helped create miniature surgical instruments

Professor Larry Howell and Spencer Meglebie of Brigham Young University (BYU), Utah, worked with Professor Brian Jensen to develop a surgical instrument based on the principles of origami engineering.

The goal that scientists have set for themselves is to create a surgical instrument that penetrates the body through tiny incisions. Already inside, the tool unfolds and is brought into working position. At the end of the operation, it is removed, and the incision heals quickly without suturing.

The researchers argue that their collaboration is driven by the need to create miniature surgical instruments, as traditional instruments have already reached their “minimum”. The BYU team has developed new design concepts where there are no contact deflection joints and parts. All necessary manipulations take place according to the origami principle.

One such tool is robotic tweezers. It is so small that it can penetrate into the operated organ through a 3-mm incision. According to Meglebi, the medical devices they have developed are not much different in principle from the space technology they developed for NASA. In space, the same idea works: when transported to the place of use, the object must be extremely miniature, only then it is deployed to its effective size.