Large projects are running with university researchers, companies and medics. DEMCON is a strong player in partnerships. In 2009 the TeleFLEX project was launched with the aim of developing a ‘surgical telemanipulation system’. DEMCON acted as the leader of the project consortium and, in addition to the project management, was responsible for the technical realisation. Researchers from the University of Twente (UT) provided the scientific output and surgeons provided for good support for the clinical vision and market potential.
Keyhole surgery, through a minimally invasive or natural opening in the body, is less demanding on patients, leading to faster recovery, less risk of infection and less, or even no, scarring. This is possible with a flexible endoscope equipped with optics for internal examination of the patient. Working channels in the endoscope can be fitted with instruments such as a forceps for performing operations.
The TeleFLEX concept includes a master-slave system for telemanipulation, in which the endoscope and any instruments are operated remotely from a ‘cockpit’. Together with partners, DEMCON developed an electromechanical interface for smart control of the endoscope, on the basis of robotic principles. The operation is intuitive and user-friendly, and is suitable for flexible instruments.
Thanks to the innovative interface, the surgeon in the cockpit can operate the endoscope with one hand and has the other hand free for performing the operation. This is in contrast to the conventional operation of a flexible endoscope, which requires the surgeon to use both hands. Assistants are then sometimes needed for any intervention.
The TeleFLEX project was completed in 2013 with the delivery of an integrated robotic system consisting of three modules, for the insertion and control of the endoscope and the operation of instruments. The system has as many as 16 degrees of freedom; despite the necessary 16 engines, DEMCON was able to realise a compact system with a friendly appearance that can be implemented in hospitals easily. Work on the modules developed continues under the name of Advanced Endoscopy. DEMCON now has its hands full with various projects for different medical devices.