COMPANY NEWS: Kuka KUKA LBR Med goes into series production

Editor: Susanne Hertenberger

A robot for use in the immediate vicinity of the human operator as an assistant for tasks in rehabilitation or in the operating room – this is now a reality with the LBR Med lightweight robot.

For direct collaboration with human operators, the LBR Med is equipped with sensors in every joint.
For direct collaboration with human operators, the LBR Med is equipped with sensors in every joint.
(Source: KUKA)

LBR Med meets the regulatory requirements of IEC 60601-1

KUKA has made extensive adaptations to enable operation of the innovative lightweight robot under the strict requirements of medical treatment and interventions. It has biocompatible and corrosion-resistant surfaces. Internally routed connections offer a further point of compliance with the hygienic standards in doctors’ offices, clinics and operating rooms. KUKA also guarantees inspection of the LBR Med through the IECEE CB scheme according to standard IEC 60601-1. With the CB Certificate and CB Report from KUKA, complex testing is reduced and certification procedures are made significantly easier. KUKA already takes care of this in the factory.

Lightweight robot can be used for wide variety of medical applications

As a robot component for a vast range of tasks, the robot can be integrated into medical products by the medical product manufacturer. Equipped with the right tools and program, the LBR Med can be used to assist with endoscopy or biopsies. It can be used to saw bones or for the fixation of pedicle screws. The sensitive seven-axis robot is based on revolutionary lightweight robot technology from KUKA. It has been completely redefining human-robot collaboration for years.

Lightweight robots become “assistant doctors”

Applications based on large robots are not the only ones that can be used in the field of medicine. In the future, lightweight robots designed to be particularly collaborative will take on an increasing number of assistance tasks in the field of healthcare. Thanks to their sensitivity, these robots are able to work “hand and hand” with medical specialists to provide support. A complex sensor system and a sleek design make lightweight robots responsive assistants. They feel their way towards objects, allow themselves to be gently pushed away by people, and withdraw automatically when touched. As a result of these characteristics, lightweight robots will, for example, be able to assist surgeons in the operating room as well as carry out physiotherapeutic tasks in rehabilitation.

In the field of medicine, cooperation between industry and science is particularly close and important. Numerous research projects are currently working to develop new robot applications for medical technology. For example, RWTH Aachen University and Aachen University Hospital are developing “mechatronic physiotherapists” based on the KUKA lightweight robot. Always in top form and never tiring, these can assist patients with their exercises in a manner that is constant and precise. The demand for frequent, repetitive training is a strong argument for robot-based rehabilitation. Robots can initiate the movements of the patient while taking into account the patient’s current state and individual therapy plan – without any additional therapeutic personnel being required. This enables the patient to carry out the exercises independently with help from the robot and to do so with the necessary regularity and consistency.

For years, KUKA has been a competent supplier and development partner of leading companies and research institutions in the field of medical robotics. Modified solutions based on service-proven large robot series, such as the KR QUANTEC with the KR C4 robot controller, are already being used in hospitals for everything from angiographies, radiotherapy or patient positioning. Even the KUKA lightweight robot LBR iiwa is continuously being adapted to the specific requirements of the medical industry, in cooperation with various research institutions. To achieve this, KUKA began to use an open and modular system architecture for the controller very early on, thus allowing for an easy integration of external sensors as well as software from third parties.

In one exemplary medical application, the LBR iiwa takes on the role of assistant during a total knee arthroplasty. Here, the surgeon manually guides the robot arm with the bone saw in compliance mode. Virtual walls limit the robot’s permitted range of motion to defined workspaces during the intervention. During the operation, a camera system ensures that the position of these imaginary walls and the orientation of the saw relative to the bone are always maintained exactly. This collaboration between the surgeon and robot thus enables a highly precise and safe operation.

The developments described above demonstrate that medical robotics is increasingly contributing to qualitative improvement in the healthcare industry. With help from robotic components, existing methods of diagnosis and therapy can become safer, more precise, more consistent and even more cost effective. Robots can also perform simple, routine logistical tasks in the growing field of care for the elderly so that specialist staff has more time for nursing tasks. As a result, the use of robotic components in the medical field will become an increasingly important factor in stabilizing our healthcare system.