Category Archives: Assignments

Design of a Self-Propagating Tree-Root Inspired Needle

Tree roots are able to find their way through the soil towards a water source. They do this by growing their roots in a special way. First, they extend the middle part of the root into the soil. Second, they thicken the roots.

In this assignment, you will develop a soft tree-root inspired needle that is able to propel itself through the body in a minimally invasive way. The challenge will mainly lie in how you can propagate yourself through the body.

If you are interested in this assignment, please contact: Aimée Sakes,

Tree-Frog Inspired Wall-Climbing Robot

The tree-frog is able to adhere to multiple surfaces. It does this by employing several strategies, one of which is the use of special “suction-cup” feet.

Based on this principle, in this assignment, you will develop a robotic foot inspired by the tree-frog. This robotic-foot can be used for many different applications. Think, for example, on medical applications, where you need to attach and detach quickly, but also on a wall-climbing robot!

If you are interested in this assignment, please contact: Aimée Sakes,

Design and characterization of a soft gripper for slippery tissue

Tissue manipulation during surgery is currently done with a grasping forceps. This pinching instrument is prone to errors related to the force that is applied on the gripped tissue. Using too much force may lead to tissue damage.

Inspired by tree frogs, here, we will investigate whether firm but gentle grip on slippery tissue can be generated with grippers containing soft pads. With such a grasper, grip is still friction-based, but does no longer depend on the applied normal load. This probably

In this project, we will implement soft pads into 3D-printed graspers. The grasper design has to be adapted in order to generate load-independent grip. The project includes characterization of a prototype on biological tissues.

Start: January-February 2019

Contact: Peter van Assenbergh,

The Nothern Clingfish, Bio-inspired Suction Cup

The northern clingfish (Gobiesox maeandricus) is able to adhere to slippery, wet, and irregular surfaces in the marine environment. A study by Wainwright et al. (2013) found that the fish can adhere to surfaces with a broad range of surface roughness, from the finest of sandpaper, to highly irregular surfaces such as rocks. The fishes outperform manmade suction cups, which as many of us know, only adhere to smooth surfaces.

Clingfish are able to adhere to these wet and irregular surface due to their highly sophisticated suction disc. This suction disc consists of a cup with at the edge of the cup structured microvilli, similar to those of geckos. When the fish attaches to a surface, water is forced out from under the suction disc by rocking the pelvic girdle and an area of sub-ambient pressure is created. The microvilli at the edge of the disc, subsequently prevent slip of the cup or premature release by creating friction between the cup and the surface.

In this assignment we will focus on the design of a special bio-inspired suction pad for use in medical application to grip and release slippery, wet and soft tissue without damaging the structure.

If you are interested in this assignment, please contact: Aimée Sakes,

Design of an Innovative Flexible Transport System (Closed)

During percutaneous coronary interventions in the coronaries of the heart, it is often a necessity to remove obstructions from the blood vessels. Obstructions are  removed using specialised instruments, such as atherectomy drills and balloon catheters. During removal, aspiration catheters are used in conjunction with these instruments in order to prevent small particles getting into the blood stream, which can cause a stroke, amongst others. These aspiration catheters use a pressure differential to remove the small particles from the blood stream.

Even though these catheters are successful in removing small particles from the blood stream, they are often plagued by various failure modes. For example, they are prone to clogging and are limited for transport of tissue through long and narrow tubes. Furthermore, the aspiration-force that is created does not only affect the desired tissue but also the surrounding tissue.

Therefore, in this assignment, you will develop a new type of flexible transport system that is not prone to these failure modes.

If you are interested in this assignment, please contact: Aimée Sakes,

Minimum Assembly Bipolar Instrument

Complex medical devices, such as the EndoWrist, are difficult to manufacture and can often take up to a few week to assemble. In an effort to improve the manufacturability and assembly, in this assignment it is the aim to develop a medical instrument that minimizes assembly.

If you are interested in this assignment, please contact: Aimée Sakes,

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,

Picture adapted from “Braconid Wasp Ovipositing” by Katja Schulz is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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,

Design of an endoluminal ovipositor-device

During colonoscopy procedures an endoscopic device is inserted into the patient and pushed through the colon with consequential discomfort to the patient.  Self-propelling devices that are able of moving through a lumen without the need of external push could be beneficial for these applications. Research in this topic is ongoing, but no successful solutions have yet been discovered.

At TU Delft a former master student (Perry Posthoorn) developed a self-propelled device inspired by the mechanism of the ovipositor of the wasp. The ovipositor is a needle-like structure which consists of three elements that can slide along each other. By means of a reciprocal movement of the elements the wasp is able to insert the ovipositor through a substrate. The reciprocal sliding mechanism of multiple elements has inspired the design of our ovipositor-device.

Preliminary tests have shown that the device is able to move through an ex-vivo porcine colon, although at extremely slow speed due to a sub-optimal internal construction of the device.

The aim of this graduation project  is to develop a strongly improved endoluminal device aiming at maximizing propulsion speed at minimal internal complexity with the final aim to make a revolutionary new system suited for disposable use.

For more information contact Marta Scali (

Shockwaves for Puncturing through Occlusions (Closed)

Chronic Total Occlusions (CTOs) are currently the last frontier for cardiovascular surgery. CTOs are defined as heavily calcified occlusions in the vascular system of the heart that slowly form over time and are at least three months old. The preferred treatment option of CTOs is a so-called Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI). Unfortunately, in many occasions PCI is ineffective as the guidewire is not able to cross the CTO due to lack of stiffness of the guidewire and the less than favourable properties of the CTO. Therefore, the success rate of these kinds of interventions is relatively low, which in turn has led to the tendency to treat these kinds of lesions medically.

To improve the success rate of these kinds of interventions it is, therefore, necessary to develop a new tool that is able to cross the CTO without buckling. From this, the idea arose to use shockwaves to puncture through CTOs. Shockwaves are used in the animal kingdom to strike through hard shells and prey capture by, for example, the Mantis Shrimp. They are particularly effective in fluidic environment such as the blood vessels and are, therefore, a good candidate for prototype development.

This research project will entail a literature study where the use of shockwaves in the animal kingdom and other shockwave applications and/or instruments is investigated, and a graduation project where innovative shockwave tool for puncturing the proximal cap of chronic total occlusions is developed.

Contact: Aimée Sakes,