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World’s First MRI-Compatible Image-Guided Surgical Robot

Johnson Medtech, the medical products network of Johnson Electric, one of the world’s largest providers of motion actuators, today announced its participation in creating the neuroArm, the world’s first MRI-compatible image-guided surgical robot capable of both microsurgery and stereotaxy. Actuators that utilize revolutionary ceramic motors designed by Nanomotion of the Johnson Medtech network enable the neuroArm to safely operate within an MRI to provide surgeons with unprecedented detail and control.

Working with a team of experts from the University of Calgary and MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA), Nanomotion of the Johnson Medtech network collaborated to implement non-magnetic actuators that enable the precision motion necessary for conducting microsurgical operations safely within the strong magnetic field of an MRI system. In the past, the magnetic nature of electric motors and their metal components restricted surgeons and surgical tools from the MRI environment, making motion impossible.

The neuroArm utilizes sixteen of Nanomotion’s HR2-1-N-3 piezo ultrasonic non-magnetic motors, coupled with the company’s AB5 drive module. These motors cover six joints, all of which are rotary. Using the real-time visibility into the human body provided by the MRI, the sophisticated Nanomotion actuators in the neuroArm enable surgeons to manipulate tools at a microscopic scale and conduct surgeries that were previously difficult or impossible.

“Our design team overcame a number of challenges in building the neuroArm. One was the need for the neuroArm to operate in the strong magnetic field of the MRI, and with extreme precision,” said Dr. Garnette Sutherland, Professor of Neurosurgery, University of Calgary. “Nanomotion’s non-magnetic piezo ultrasonic motors enable the neuroArm to effectively conduct microsurgical operations within the MRI environment.”

In addition to the non-magnetic benefit of the ceramic motors, Nanomotion’s precision motion control abilities increase the granularity with which a surgeon can work, from within an eighth of an inch using the human hand, to within the width of a hair using the neuroArm. These sophisticated motors provide surgeons with unprecedented detail and control, enabling them to manipulate tools at a microscopic scale.

“Working together with the international neuroArm design team, we have overcome the formidable challenges encountered in creating a motion device that functions in a sterile operating room, within an MRI and alongside medical professionals involved in surgery,” said Jim Dick, senior vice president of Johnson Electric. “The neuroArm is improving operative medicine to enable safer, more successful surgeries for patients around the world, and Johnson Medtech’s Nanomotion is proud to be a member of the design team.”

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