The “Ear Worm” Robot That Will Revolutionise Inner Ear Tumours

There has been a lot of talk about robots in the last few years, and although many people are fearing that iRobot is a projection of our robot-dominated future, there are robots have been designed to aid humans with their jobs.

One recent example that has caught our eye is the NiLiBoRo (Non-Linear Drilling Robot) which has been created to aid surgeons in the removal of inner ear tumours. As you may have already guessed, this procedure is incredibly delicate, requiring a huge amount of precision to remove the mastoid bone from the ear.

So, how can this robot increase the control and precision of those surgeons who need to perform this delicate surgery?

Flexibility Is Key

The more science savvy of you out there may already know that there are already drills which are capable of drilling through bone that exist. Surely that’s not what makes this worm-like robot special, right?

young calm woman pointing to her ear

The beauty of the NiLiBoRo – yes we know it sounds like something that you would hear the Judoon from Doctor Who say– is that it is incredibly flexible and it is the first robotic drill that can not only drill through bone straight on, but drill into bone around corners as well.

How Does It Work?

According to the German researchers who have designed the surgical robot, the drill cuts a 5mm tunnel through the bone using a system which propels the robot gently through the ear.

The drilling and precision is monitored closely by an electromagnetic system which tracks the precise movements and functions that the drill if performing, while the direction is controlled by the surgeon who will adjust the direction through filling bladders with fluid which are located at the front of the robot.

Surgeons in operating theatre


Lennart Kastensen, one of the scientists who are working on the project describes this control as “For instance, if we wanted to move left then we fill the left bladder with less fluid than the right, which will cause the robot to veer to the left,”

The Future of Ear Surgery?

Although an actual size robot hasn’t been created yet, the team has produced a prototype of the NiLiBoRo which is five times the size of the proposed robot.

This has enabled them to iron out any potential problems before miniaturising the final robot.

Black and White Ear iStock_000000092554_Small

As always, we are always interested in learning how engineering is aiding other crucial occupations such as surgeons and other medical professions. The more help these talented people can get, the more people that they will be able to save when performing tricky and delicate operations.

Like many mechanical objects, compression springs are one of the integral parts of an objects design, and we just so happen to have them available here at European Springs Ireland. If you would like to find out more about how our springs can benefit you, contact our team today on 048 9083 8605.

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