Novel Shooting Mechanism for Tissue Puncturing

In nature multiple animals have developed intriguing shooting mechanisms for food capture, defence, and reproductive reasons. Think for example on the amazing tongue shooting capability of the chameleon and the appendage strike of the mantis shrimp.

For a full overview of innovative and interesting shooting mechanisms in nature, we would like to refer to: Shooting Mechanisms in Nature: A Systematic Review by Sakes et al. [2016]

These shooting mechanisms can offer inspiration for new ideas on the technological development of fast acceleration mechanisms in medicine. High-speed shooting mechanisms can, for example, be used for the endovascular treatment of Chronic Total occlusions (CTOs). CTOs are heavily calcified and are thus difficult to puncture and cross with the small (0.36 mm) guidewire. The required force to puncture the CTO is often higher than the buckling force of the guidewire due to the low bending stiffness (EI) and long (unsupported) length (L). As a result, the guidewire often buckles. Buckling in turn causes procedural failure since the CTO cannot be crossed. Buckling of the crossing tool may be prevented by using a high-speed crossing tools as this increases the buckling resistance of the guidewire and potentially minimizes the puncture force of the CTO.

With this in mind an innovative high-speed crossing tool was developed using nature’s shooting mechanisms as inspiration. The crossing tool (OD 2 mm) incorporates an innovative spring-driven indenter and decoupling mechanism for high-speed puncturing of the proximal cap. First tests have been very promising. The prototype hit the CTO with an average speed of 3.4 m/s and was able to deliver a maximum force of 20 N (without buckling), which is well over the required 1.5 N to puncture the CTO. Additionally, the device was tested on CTO models made out of calcium and gelatine of different consistency. Puncture was achieved with on average 2.5 strikes for heavily calcified (77 wt% calcium) CTO models.

We feel that with continued development of this technique it will become possible to deliver high forces in ultra thin devices, such as guidewires, and as such increase the success rate of the the endovascular treatment of CTOs and other minimal invasive applications.

For a video of the prototype hitting a fixed surface, please see: Velocity_Max_10fps (Converted), which is slowed down 1000x.

3D printed Hand: FA3D

The FA3D hand is a 3D printed Hand printed with a flexible filament. The fingers of the hand have multiple joints, allowing for adaptive gripping. The fingers have elastic joints and can be printed as one part. Therefore assembly of the finger phalanxes is not necessary.

FA3D Hand
FA3D Hand

Due to its adaptive gripping, the FA3D Hand can hold a broad range of objects.

FA3D Hand holding paper cup

The FA3D Hand consists of 8 3D-printed parts. The parts can be  connected with standard bolts and nuts. Steel cables are used to actuate the fingers.

Parts of the FA3D Hand
Parts of the FA3D Hand

The hand is body powered. It can be controlled by pulling the control cable, by using a shoulder strap.

User wearing the FA3D Hand
User wearing the FA3D Hand


Ovipositor Needle I – Self-Propelling through Tissue

Developed in 2014, thickness 2 mm.

Wasp ovipositors  are thin and flexible needle-like structures used for laying eggs inside wood or larvae.  Wasp ovipositors are composed out of  longitudinal segments, called “valves”, that can be actuated individually and independently of each other with musculature located in the abdomen of the insect. In this way the wasp can steer the ovipositor along curved trajectories inside different substrates without a need for rotatory motion or axial push.

Inspired by the anatomy of wasp ovipositors, we developed an Ovipositor Needle containing a 2 mm thick “needle” composed out of four sharp and polished stainless steel rods, representing four ovipositor valves. The four valves can be individually moved forward and backward by means of  electromechanical actuators mounted in a propulsion unit that is standing on four passive wheels. If the needle is inserted into a gel that represents tissue, and if the four valves are sequentially moved forward and backward, the friction behaviour around the valves in the gel will result in a net pulling motion that drives the needle forward through the gel. The ovipositor needle is therefore self-propelling, meaning that it does not need a net pushing motion for moving forward through tissue like normal needles do.

Ovipositor Needle I is part of the  WASP project that focuses on the development of steerable needles for localized therapeutic drug delivery or tissue sample removal (biopsy). In a new prototype that is currently under development, we aim to extend the self-propelled needle with steering capabilities at an outer diameter of just 1 mm.



Automatic design and manufacturing of upper limb prosthetic sockets for developing countries

Comfort and functionality of upper limb prosthetics is highly dependent on socket performance. Correct anatomical fit is therefore of paramount importance for prosthetic designs. We believe that the complex design process of prosthetic sockets can be achieved automatically using accurate anatomical models of the stump. With the increasing advance in smartphone technology it is possible to reconstruct digital models based on camera information. We plan to explore current technologies for generating 3D digital models from multiple 2D photos and assess such techniques to stablish a framework in which smartphone technology can be used to generate 3D computer models of upper limb stumps. Using precise geometry of the stump and current CAD technologies it is possible to create a socket design that fits accurately into the residual limb. We plan to adopt such process to build fully working prosthetic sockets using 3d printing technology for developing countries.

Contact: Juan Cuellar,

3D printed wasp-ovipositor replica: reverse engineering approach

In nature, several species of parasitoid wasps have a thin and flexible needle-like structure, called ovipositor, which is used to deposit eggs in a host (e.g., a larva) hidden into tree trunks or fruits. The wasp ovipositor consists of three segments, called valves, longitudinally connected that can slide along each other.  The animals can drill in different substrates by actuating the valves in a reciprocal motion and steer by changing the relative positions of the valves during probing (i.e. protracting and retracting of the valves).

We are currently developing a novel steerable needle for minimally invasive interventions inspired by the wasp-ovipositor. However, the steering mechanisms used by the animal is not yet fully understood.

The project will focus on understanding how the steering mechanism works and which characteristics of the ovipositor play a relevant role.

The student will use detailed 3D images of different ovipositors to design several replicas of the wasp ovipositor in larger scale with 3D printed techniques. The prototypes will be tested with an experimental facility where motion pattern and speed can be controlled. The ovipositors will be inserted in gelatine of different concentration to study the design parameters effecting the steering mechanism.

Contact: Marta Scali,