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Origami-inspired miniature manipulator for teleoperated microsurgery


The use of a structure with a remote fixed point around which a mechanism can rotate is called remote centre of motion (RCM). The technique is widely used in minimally invasive surgery to avoid excess force on the incision site during the robot’s motion. Here we describe the design, fabrication and characterization of an origami-inspired miniature RCM manipulator for teleoperated microsurgery (the mini-RCM has mass 2.4 g and size 50 mm × 70 mm × 50 mm), which is actuated by three independently controlled linear actuators with concomitant sensing (each mini-LA has mass 0.41 g and size 28 mm × 7 mm × 3.6 mm). The mini-RCM has a payload capacity of approximately 27 mN and attains a positional precision of 26.4 μm. We demonstrate its potential utility as a precise tool for teleoperated microsurgery by performing 0.5-mm-square tracing and micro-cannulation teleoperated microsurgical procedures under a microscope. Teleoperation using the mini-RCM reduced the deviation from the desired trajectory by 68% compared to manual operation. In addition, the mini-RCM allows gravity compensation and back drivability for safety. Its compact, simple structure facilitates manufacture.

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Fig. 1: The mini-RCM.
Fig. 2: The fabrication process and the kinematics of the mini-RCM.
Fig. 3: The actuation and displacement sensing mechanisms of the mini-LA.
Fig. 4: The result of the mini-LA’s characterization.
Fig. 5: Characterization of the mini-RCM.
Fig. 6: Example tasks that utilize the mini-RCM’s performance under teleoperated control.

Data availability

The source data for the figures presented in this paper can be found in the Supplementary information. Source data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

Motion control code is available from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request.


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We acknowledge the advice and discussions about fabrication techniques from G. Freeburn, P. York, D. Lee and all members of the Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory for their help and assistance.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



H.S. and R.J.W. developed the concept. H.S. fabricated the experimental samples of the manipulator. H.S. developed the electrical circuit board and the motion control software for the manipulator. H.S. and R.J.W. designed the experiments. H.S. and R.J.W. wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Hiroyuki Suzuki or Robert J. Wood.

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

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Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 The fabrication process of the mini-LA using the pop-up book MEMS.

a, The rail-unit. b, The runner-unit.

Extended Data Fig. 2 The control system and experimental setup of the mini-LA.

The signal from the function generator can be modified through the multiplier IC according to the output signal from the D/A. We can adjust the speed and motion direction of the runner-unit using the output signal of the D/A. The signal, generated by a proportional controller, is amplified and transmitted to the mini-LA. The displacement is measured and sampled by the mini-LA and a reference laser displacement sensor simultaneously.

Extended Data Fig. 3

Experimental determination of the mini-RCM’s motion range.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Tables 1–5

Supplementary Data

Source files of the collected data (.m .csv files).

Source data

Source Data Fig. 4

The result of the mini-LA’s characterization.

Source Data Fig. 5

Characterization of the mini-RCM.

Source Data Fig. 6

The trajectories from a micro-square tracing experiment.

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Suzuki, H., Wood, R.J. Origami-inspired miniature manipulator for teleoperated microsurgery. Nat Mach Intell 2, 437–446 (2020).

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