From chocolate factory to surgery – the milliDelta robot

Play icon

From chocolate factory to surgery - the milliDelta robot


  Last updated January 24, 2018 at 4:58 pm

A new microrobot called the milliDelta could soon be used in surgery, thanks to it's precision, accuracy and speed.

According to the senior authors from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, Hayley McClintock, post-baccalaureate researcher, and Fatma Zeynep Temel, postdoctoral fellow, "The Delta robot was originally invented for use in a chocolate factory, so it’s used a lot for pick-andplace applications such as in an industrial context. They’re mostly used in these applications because they’re very precise and accurate and can move at pretty high speeds.”

“Delta robots are pretty fast but ours sort of blows them out of the water with how fast it is. Most currently available Delta robots are around a couple of Hertz, while our Delta robot can move up to 75 Hertz – 15 to 25 times higher frequency than anything that’s currently available. So that opens up the areas it can be used for. It’s also much smaller than any robot that we’ve seen – just the linkages are about the size of a penny.”

“The reason why the milliDelta can move so fast is the piezoelectric actuators that we use.”

“An application we were thinking of is eye surgery, which requires operation in such a small area. The milliDelta could be used to compensate for hand tremors the surgeons have.”

“Other applications include use in circuit boards, micro-positioning stages for cell manipulation. It could also be used for a micro-factory, where small machines making small devices – basically any situation where you need to make small movements.”

“The good thing about a Delta robot is that it can be easily be tailored to different applications, from micro-factories to cell manipulation. It’s funny because we also have a use for our own invention: we have a lot of microrobots in the lab, so the milliDelta, a small robot, could be used to make more small robots.”

This research was published in Science Robotics.

Video and images thanks to:  McClintock et al., Sci. Robot. 3, eaar3018 (2018)

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to get all the latest science.

Published By

Science and technology is as much a part of our cultural fabric as art, music, theatre and literature. They play a significant role in our daily lives, yet, in a world dependent on science, we often take them for granted. Australia’s Science Channel believes every citizen has a right, and a responsibility, to be informed, and our mission is to create programs to bring that about.