3D printer-driven design of a non-assembly titanium surgical instrument using compliant lattice flexures

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Metal additive manufacturing is a promising technology for the production of functional medical products, due to its high shape complexity and resolution, and ability to withstand sterilization temperatures. This study explores the possibility of designing a completely non-assembly steerable surgical instrument using Selective Laser Melting. Despite its advantages for medical devices, the rough surface quality of unfinished parts can be problematic for non-assembly designs, leading to increased friction and wear in rigid body mechanisms and tendon-actuated mechanisms. We investigated printing of rolling contact joints with crossed flexures as low-friction joints, adjusted for printing in titanium for the design of the instrument. Grid-based lattice structures were incorporated as miniature flexures, and we explored the influence of various grid sizes on the flexibility and bending stiffness of the lattices. Based on this exploration, we altered the rolling joint configuration from two crossed flexures to a single straight flexure for our design. The resulting steerable surgical instrument design is completely non-assembly, including its actuation, facilitates easy removal of support structures, and requires no surface finishing steps. It has a diameter of less than 20 mm, facilitates opening and closing of a grasper, and steering of the grasper by 20 degrees.