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Reporting period: 2019-10-01 to 2020-09-30

During surgery interventions, the smaller is the access to patients´ body, the faster is the recovery time and the fewer are the complications that appear. Although, minimally invasive techniques are well far developed, there is still a large number of medical interventions that can not be done without damage and risks. For example, mitral regurgitation, rotational atherectomies, arrhythmia ablations, brain tumors resections or intracranial angioplasties constitute risky interventions that produce large collateral damages due to the use of too large and rigid tools. Robotic arms and automatic mechanisms tools could be a solution for those risky interventions, but they can not be constructed in the microscale because simply there are not rotational actuators / robotic joints strong and small enough.

Our project seeks to develop the first micrometric-size Ultra-Efficient Wireless Powered Micro-robotic joint (UWIPOM2), enabling the creation of micro-robotic complex mechanisms for minimally invasive micro-surgery techniques and in-vivo health treatments. The foreseen robotic joint will contain a micro-motor connected to an integrated gearbox reducing drastically friction and simplifying assembly. Moreover, the robotic joint will be wireless powered through gigahertz electromagnetic waves, thus avoiding any access to control the tool and providing infinite autonomy to any micro-robot activated by UWIPOM2.

The technical target of UWIPOM2 project is reach orders of magnitude higher torque-to-weight and power-to-weight ratio than any previous system in the microscale, enabling the creation of micro-robots with complex mechanical and control capacities. If the project succeeds, future robotics developers will have powering building blocks to create micro-robotic arms or other type of mechanical systems in the microscale. These tools will provide unprecedented capacities for doctors worldwide.
During the first reporting period (Oct 2019 - Sep 2020), the team succeeded in designing and simulating a robotic joint of micrometer sizes, that is, smaller than 1 mm in diameter and 1 mm length. The design shows excellent torque, speed and rotation control capabilities, while maintaining an acceptable level of efficiency. Next steps are manufacturing and assembly of the micrometric parts in order to build the functional prototype and demonstrate its operational capacity in in-vivo like environment.

However, the manufacturing and assembly process of the different micrometric parts is novel and complex. Before, it is necessary to acquire a deep scientific knowledge about the behavior of the materials that make up the robotic joint on a micrometric scale. Very significant knowledge has been obtained in the development of magnetic materials in micrometric sizes. In addition, new state-of-the-art surface treatments are being investigated to reduce wear of moving parts.

In parallel, work has been done on different wireless powering modules to be able to operate and control the robotic joint from outside the body. Optimal antennas with different layouts have been designed and simulated. Modules for wireless powering are already under manufacturing process. Tests will be carried out in in-vivo like environment to demonstrate the expected capabilities in medical and health applications.

Although experimental works are in process, various dissemination and dissemination activities of the project have been carried out, such as participation in conferences or industrial fairs of medical products. The complete list of activities can be found at .
There is currently no robotic joint, not even closer, to the dimensions that are intended to be achieved, being the smallest in history.

Detailed design and simulations have yielded results that shows a specific torque capacity almost 100 times larger than the one of any previous micro-motor attempt, together with high power density and precision in rotation control. Though, the performance has to be demonstrated with the functional real prototype whose manufacturing is on-going.

It has been possible to optimize the wireless powering module to be able to deliver at least part of the power required by the robotic joint. However, this design still needs to be improved in order to deliver full power and take full advantage of the mechanical design. In any case, the robotic joint has been designed to be powered also through direct tethering, so all powering possibilities are enabled.

UWIPOM2 will constitute the key element for the foundation of micro-robotics technology for health applications but also for other fields like nano-satellites, security, mechatronics or micro-electronics. During the last four decades, robotics has been one of the technological disciplines wherein more efforts have been invested with outstanding technological results. Currently, available technology exists for micro-sensor, micro-communications and even for micro-scoping, but the final component that can open a full field of micro-robotics will be UWIPOM2 micro-robotic joints. Not only high power-density allows opening this new road-map, but also, as UWIPOM2 based micro-robots will follow similar macroscopic design, similar strategies of control and automation can be directly applicable. Mechatronics engineers will be able to design any type of micro-machines operating inside the body with minimally invasive accesses and wireless powered. - Micrometric parts of UWIPOM2 system