Category Archives: Assignments

Spinal bone anchor fixation by molding to the pedicle

During spinal fusion surgery, multiple vertebrae are fused by fixating them together. The fixation of the vertebrae is achieved by placing screws through the pedicles of the vertebrae that are connected to rods. The fixation strength of the screw mainly relies on the contact area between the screw and the outer bone layer of the vertebra. This contact can only be achieved within the pedicle of the vertebra. However, even in the pedicle, this contact is limited due to the hourglass shape and oval cross-section of the pedicle.

In this graduation project, you will design a bone anchor that can adapt its shape in 3D to the pedicle of the vertebra to fixate to increase the contact area between the anchor and the cortical outer layer of the pedicle.

Interested? Contact Esther de Kater,

Design of an internal fixation system for spinal fusion surgery

During spinal fusion surgery multiple vertebrae are fused by fixating them together. The fixation of the vertebrae is achieved by placing screws through the pedicles of the vertebrae that are connected to rods. The rods run along the vertebrae and are embedded in the surrounding soft tissue. This can result in pain and irritation for the patient.

The vertebra grow together and form one bony mass in the first six months after surgery. During this period the forces acting on the fixation are substantial during daily activities. If the screw loosen during this period, the desired fusion cannot be achieved.

In this graduation project we will set the first steps in the direction of a new fixation method that is mainly located within the vertebra. The graduation projects focuses on the development of a drilling and/or anchoring system that can be used to create the desired fixation.

Interested? Contact Esther de Kater,

Neural network for tissue classification

The spine is the central support structure of the body that helps us humans sit, stand up and walk around, twist and bend. Age-related degeneration, but also congenital deformities can cause back pain and spinal instability, requiring surgical fixation of the spine. To guide the surgeon’s drill during spine surgery, the tissue in front of its tip is assessed with a fiber-optic sensing system, but we currently don’t know how to evaluate the recorded data.

The focus of this graduation project in collaboration with Philips Research will be to train a neural network with data from different tissues found in/around the spine to develop a classifier that will guide surgeons during spine surgery. This project does not require preliminary AI knowledge or programming skills, although knowing some python basics will be of use.

Interested? Contact Merle Losch,

Design of an Octopus-Inspired Device for Stable Needle Insertion (CLOSED)

Octopuses have eight arms that are perfect for gripping rocks, catching prey, and walking along different surfaces. They do this with the suction cups that underline their arms. We are currently developing soft suction cups for stable needle insertion in flexible tissue inspired by these octopus suction cups.

Tissue motion and deformation leads to needle positioning errors. Hence, clinicians typically needle multiple attempts to position the needle at the target location. To achieve accurate needle positioning, clinicians can stabilize the tissue by gripping it. However, gripping and handling of slippery and flexible tissues during minimally invasive surgery is often challenging. Current grippers commonly use a force grip to manipulate tissue, which makes it prone to damage. Octopus-inspired suction cups integrated with a needle could be the solution that stabilizes tissue during needle insertion without damaging the tissue.

This MSc-graduation project involves designing, developing, and testing a novel stable-needle insertion device that allows for accurate needle positioning. We are searching for a student that is interested in a design-oriented project. For this project, SolidWorks, 3D-printing, and creative-problem-solving skills are useful.

Interested? Please contact Vera Kortman ( or Jette Bloemberg (

Design of a steerable device for spine surgery

Spinal fusion is one of the most common surgical procedures in the world. At the BITE group, we are developing a novel drill that allows for the surgeon to steer through the vertebra along a secure drilling trajectory, avoiding nerves and blood vessels that run along the spinal column. To help the surgeon find and maintain the right trajectory, a fiber-optic sensing system will be integrated into the drill to provide the surgeon with positional feedback in real time.

For this graduation project, inspiration will be drawn from nature to design a steerable device for spine surgery. A 3D-printed model will be built, and its usability for steering through the vertebra will be assessed.

Interested? Contact Merle Losch,

Novel “Tattoo”-based instrumentation for Dupuytren’s contracture surgery (CLOSED)

The hand is one of the most complex structures of the human body, allowing an advanced spectrum of motion. Dupuytren’s contracture, or Dupuytren’s disease, is an abnormal thickening of the palmar fascia, just below the skin of the palm of the hand, which impairs the motion of the finger tendons, leading to loss of finger function and causing the fingers to curl.

Surgical treatment of Dupuytren’s contracture involves making an incision through the thickened palmar tissue which is then partially removed. As the hand anatomy is very delicate, with a fine network of blood vessels and small nerves leading to the fingers, there is a risk of severe complications, especially when fragile nerves under the palmar fascia are accidentally cut.

This MSc-graduation project involves the development of novel high-tech “tattoo”-based instrumentation for Dupuytren’s contracture surgery by which the risk of damaging delicate palmar structures can be totally avoided. The project will be carried out in a very close collaboration with hand surgeons from the Reinier Haga Orthopedic Center (RHOC). We are searching for a student that can start at a short term with this challenging and very interesting graduation project.

Interested? Please contact Paul Breedveld,

Miniature Suction Gripper for Eye Surgery (CLOSED)

The eye is made up of delicate tissue, which can easliy be damaged when it is being handled excessively during surgery. The outer layer on top of the eye, called the conjunctiva, is responsible for keeping the eye lubricated. This thin layer is often manipulated during surgery in order to perform other operations, but as a result of hard metal forceps it can become damaged. See this movie for an example.

In this assignment, the aim is to develop a miniature suction gripper that can handle delicate eye tissue during surgery. First you will look into miniature suction grippers for different applications, after which you will design and test a novel prototype.

Interested? Contact Vera Kortman ( or Kirsten Lussenburg (

Design of a Wasp-Inspired Steerable Needle for Urology (CLOSED)

In nature, there is a special group of wasps known as parasitoid wasps. They have a thin and steerable needle-like structure called the ovipositor. This ovipositor is used to lay eggs in hosts. The ovipositor is a very thin organ shaped like a flexible, hollow needle. In order to reach the right location, the wasp can steer her ovipositor. How it steers is still being studied.

We are currently developing novel steerable needles for prostate and kidney interventions inspired by the wasp ovipositor. This project will focus on understanding the steering mechanism of the ovipositor and applying this to new needle designs. We are searching for an MSc student that can start at short notice with this interesting graduation project.

Interested? Please contact Jette Bloemberg,

Shark-Skin Inspired Lattice Structure for Drag Reduction

Sharks are extremely diverse group of vertebrates and inhabit a wide variety of aquatic habitats. The skin of sharks is covered in thousands of tooth-like denticles or scales that are anchored to the collagenous layer of the skin known as the  stratum  laxum.  These  scales  play  an  important  role  in  locomotion in  terms  of drag  reduction  and  lift  production. Despite  numerous  studies  on  the  functional  significance  of  shark  denticles , no  studies  have  been performed  to  investigate  the  effect  of  the  anchoring  of the  denticles  in  the  skin or the effect of denticle shape change on the drag reducing and lifting abilities. Moreover, no studies to date have been conducted to study the effect of the denticles stacking and overlapping on the denticles performance.

The objective of this project is to take  the first steps in understanding the effect of shark denticle morphology(roughness, waviness, texture), stacking, and anchoring on the drag reducing and lift increasing properties of the shark skin using computational models and real-life biomimetic shark skin prototypes.

A compatible literature study is available for this project which is “Review of denticles in sea animals”. The objective of this study is to make an overview of the existing denticles in sea animals, the differences in their design and their influence on the drag reduction for these sea animals.

Interested? Contact Aimée Sakes: or Jovana Jovanova: or Mostafa Atalla:

Design of a Vacuum Delivery Device

Vacuum-assisted delivery is a common procedure in which a vacuum device is used to guide the baby through the birth canal. This device makes use of a suction cup that is attached to the baby’s head. Excessive suction forces cause a cone-shaped swelling on the baby’s head, which increases the risk of bruising, bleeding in the skull and skull fracture.

In this graduation project, you will develop an improved vacuum extraction device with a suction cup that causes less harm to the baby’s head. You will be taking inspiration from animals with suction discs, such as the Octopus, as those can perfectly adapt their discs to the objects they grasp.

Interested? Contact Aimée Sakes ( or Vera Kortman (