The robotics research group, part of the faculty of Mechanical Engineering, focuses on both healthcare and surgical robotics. In surgery, robotics technology is related to creating assistive devices that enable new surgical procedures. Healthcare technology is aimed towards enabling sustained independent living for elderly people or people with physical impairments at home.
The group utilizes its mechanical and control design knowledge for creating precision technology instruments in (primarily) the semiconductor industry towards medical applications. Since 2001, the group continuous to collaborate with frontrunners in the medical field to create innovative solutions that either greatly improve existing procedures or enables the creation of completely new ones.
Current examples are the Sophie robot for minimal invasive surgery in the abdominal region, an eye-surgery robot that maximes the surgeons precision, a micro-surgery robot for treatment of Lymphedema and lately the finalization of a robot for automated CNC bone milling surgery of the jawbone and a robot for deep brain stimulation surgery. The group holds a firm reputation in spinning out research via medical startups. Currently, spinoffs, Preceyes and MicroSure have had world firsts with the clinical treatments of respectively robot- assisted eye surgery and treatment of Lymphedema. The spin-off Eindhoven Medical Robotics is preparing clinical trials for bone and brain surgery.
The major driver for healthcare robotics comes from the fact that the Netherlands will have a big shortage in nursing personnel in the future. In 2040 it is expected that 50% of the people will be retired. Implying a decrease of available care givers and a larger amount of people requiring care in itself. Here, robotics is believed to be one of the technologies that could help either decrease the physical strain for care givers (e.g. people movers and automated lifting devices) and also to provide assistance for people living at home. For example, for picking up items from the refrigerator, providing walking assistance, opening the door.
From a technology perspective, robots are now ‘coming out of their cages’ and enter a world where each room or object differs from one and another, they need to interact with people and its ‘working’ environment can change day-by-day. Focus of our research is to create robots that can function in unstructured, dynamic environments, physically interact with people in a safe way, but also can communicate with people in order to make them useful.
Our research results are benchmarked with the world top on a yearly basis at the RoboCup World Championship. Here, the developed technology is tested in the @home league in robots completely designed and made by the TU/e. Since 2014, TU/e maintains a top-3 position in the world, with 2 vice-championship result. Also, since 2017, the group was chosen by Toyota to use their service robot platform as the only university in Europe.
Previous project have been; RoboEarth, Bobbie project, R3COP and R5COP. Currently TU/e is involved in one healthcare project called ROPOD.