SurgiOS- A Robotic Surgery Platform

Alex Karadimos
4 min readJul 4, 2019

I have always loved Robotics, because it is such a rich field of science and engineering. I especially like surgery robotics (and medical robotics in general) because the end goal, saving a life or improving the quality of healthcare, is a lot more fulfilling, can have a huge impact for society and can maybe even change the face of medicine.

SurgiOS is my personal attempt to discover surgery robotics and maybe even create something useful. SurgiOS is a complete, integrated surgical robotics platform (for research purposes only!!!), which aims to be fully configurable and modular.

The main structure has a base and a gantry which allows movement in 3D cartesian space of an arm base. The gantry moves with respect to the base (y-axis as shown on the onshape pictures below), the arm base moves with respect to the gantry in two axes (vertical z-axis and horizontal x-axis as shown on the onshape picture).

The above designs are available on Onshape:

The platform’s main components are the following:

  • Base: two parallel tracks, which allow the movement of the robot in the y-axis
  • Gantry: aluminum structure, which moves parallel to the tracks and which functions as the track for the arm base
  • Arm base: a structure that can move in two dimensions on the gantry (z-axis and x-axis), on which are attached the surgical robotic arms
  • Surgical Robotic arms: Robotic arms that are attached to the arm base and operate with 6 degrees of freedom, to manipulate with flexibility, precision and repeatability, the surgical tools, each one of which, is attached to an arm’s end effector. I haven’t designed those yet, but I am thinking of an alternative design which will include the Raven Surgical arms.

Most of the structures (tracks, gantry columns and beam) are made with OpenBuilds open source hardware (v-slot aluminum extrusions and wheels) and other components, such as motor housing, arm base, robotic arms etc. can either be 3D printed or machined with a CNC.

The robot’s software is powered by the ROS (Robot Operating System) open-source framework.

The challenge the project addresses.

SurgiOS aims to be a more accessible and inexpensive tool to researchers, medical students and doctors. Typically, Surgery Robots are very expensive and there are many institutions that can’t afford them. SurgiOS is an open source platform and thus any university can afford to build one and conduct research and help in understanding, improving and learning more about Surgery Robotics.

Surgery Robotics come at a cost of $2–3 million dollars with an extra cost of $180,000 a year for maintenance and an operation can cost a patient an extra amount of $2,000 — $4,000. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/jenniferhicks/2017/11/02/new-studies-look-at-cost-and-benefits-of-robotic-surgery/#3180a00e6d47 , http://healthydebate.ca/2016/10/topic/robotic-surgery )

Open source surgery robotic platforms (Open Source software and hardware), can lead to more affordable equipment with same hardware and software quality, which will then have as a result more affordable surgical operations and better patient care. (Similar case: Laboratory equipment: Cut costs with open-source hardware https://www.nature.com/articles/505618d )

SurgiOS Features

  • Open-source hardware and software reduces the total cost to the minimum (cost for buying the hardware parts)
  • Open-source license means flexibility in how the robotic platform will be used for research.
  • The platform is designed with a modular approach, so any researcher, medical student or doctor can adjust it based on their needs and requirements.

SurgiOS is modular by design and can be configured in multiple ways based on different needs:

  • Single gantry with single arm base
  • Single gantry with double arm base
  • Double gantry with one or two arm bases
  • Arm base can have up to 4 robotic arms (typically 2 or 4)
  • Dimensions can also be configured, but with some limitations in minimum dimensions of gantry and base, so that the robot’s components will be collision-free
  • Besides the arm base, other components can be attached on the gantry as well e.g. medical imaging equipment, custom 3D bio-printer etc.

Use cases and research possible with the platform:

  • Extend surgery robotics to more anatomical areas of the body
  • Semi/Fully autonomous operation
  • Robotic arms, collision-free orchestration
  • Exterior and interior anatomical computer vision

The second bullet point above needs some caution! I generally don’t believe in a future where surgery is done only with robots and no surgeons at all. I believe that surgery robotics is a 2-way process, where the robot learns from the doctor and the doctor from the robot. An endless cycle of learning and improvement between the two. The robot can learn from the surgeon with the help of machine learning, that’s a huge area of research and surgery is quite behind. However you may wonder, how can the doctor learn from the robot, when the robot is the one learning, like the “chicken and the egg” problem. Thanks to Cloud technologies and the emerging field of Cloud robotics, every robot learns from different surgeons and then this robot knowledge can be shared to all other robots. So essentially, a doctor can learn from the robot (more precisely get recommendations) because they will learn from other surgeons. This means that surgery robotics is a collaborative process between multiple doctors and multiple robots.

What do you think about this project or Surgery robotics in general? Feel free to use the comments section and/or contact me at karadalex {at} gmail {dot} com .

You can also learn more about the project at https://hackaday.io/project/25932-surgios-robotics-platform

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Alex Karadimos

Electrical and Computer Engineer | Full Stack Web Developer, Robotics, Blockchain