OpenSurgery Explores the Possibility of DIY Surgery Robots

As the many many warnings at the base of the Open Surgery website clearly state, doing your own surgery is a very bad idea. However, trying to build a surgery robot like Da Vinci to see if it can be done cheaply, is a great one.

For purely academic reasons, [Frank Kolkman] decided to see if one could build a surgery robot for less than an Arab prince spends on their daily commuter vehicle. The answer is, more-or-less, yes. Now, would anyone want to trust their precious insides to a 3D printed robot with dubious precision?  Definitely not.

The end effectors were easily purchased from a chinese seller. Forty bucks will get you a sterile robotic surgery gripper, scissor, or scalpel in neat sterile packaging. The brain of the robot is basically a 3D printer. An Arduino and a RAMPS board are the most economical way to drive a couple steppers.

The initial version of the robot proves that for around five grand it’s entirely possible to build a surgery robot. Whether or not it’s legal, safe, usable, etc. Those are all questions for another research project.

Arduino Meets da Vinci in a Gesture-controlled Surgical Robot

Lots of us get to take home a little e-waste from work once in a while to feed our hacking habits. But some guys have all the luck and score the really good stuff, which is how these robotic surgical tools came to be gesture controlled.

The lucky and resourceful hacker in this case is one [Julien Schuermans], who managed to take home pieces of a multi-million dollar da Vinci Si surgical robot. Before anyone cries “larcency”, [Julien] appears to have come by the hardware legitimately – the wrist units of these robots are consumable parts costing about $2500 each, and are disposed of after 10 procedures. The video below makes it clear how they interface with the robot arm, and how [Julien] brought them to life in his shop. A quartet of Arduino-controlled servos engages drive pins on the wrist and rotates pulleys that move the cables that drive the instruments. A neat trick by itself, but when coupled with the Leap Motion controller, the instruments become gesture controlled. We’re very sure we’d prefer the surgeon’s hands on a physical controller, but the virtual control is surprisingly responsive and looks like a lot of fun.

When we talk about da Vinci around here, it’s usually in reference to 3D printers or a Renaissance-style cryptex build. Unsurprisingly, we haven’t featured many surgical robot hacks – maybe it’s time we started.

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Hacking Chipped 3D Printer Filament On The Da Vinci Printer

XYZ Printing has been selling 3D printers for years now with one very special feature not found in more mainstream printers. They’re using a chipped filament cartridge with a small chip inside each of their proprietary filament cartridges, meaning you can only use their filament. It’s the Gillette and ink jet model – sell the printer cheap, and make their money back on filament cartridges.

Last week at CES, XYZ Printing introduced their cheapest printer yet. It’s called the da Vinci Mini, a printer with a 15x15x15 cm build volume that costs only $269. Needless to say, a lot of these will be sold. A lot of people will also be disappointed with chipped filament cartridges in the coming months, so here’s how you defeat the latest version of chipped filament.

A little bit of research showed [WB6CQA] the latest versions of XYZ Printing’s filament uses an NFC chip. Just like the earlier EEPROM version, the latest spools of filament just store a value in memory without any encryption. [WB6CQA] pulled a board from the printer, connected it up to a logic analyzer, and checked out the data sheet for the NFC chip, giving him access to the data on the filament chip.

After running a few prints and comparing the data before and after, [WB6CQA] found a few values that changed. These values could be written back to their previous values, effectively resetting the chip in the filament and allowing third party filament to be used in this printer. It’s a kludge, but it works. More effort will be needed to remove the need to capture data with logic analyzers, but we’re well on our way to chipless filament on da Vinci printers.

A Replica of Da Vinci’s Cryptex

What makes this beautifully crafted, hand-made Da Vinci Cryptex even more impressive is that a high school student made it.

Shared with r/DIY a few days ago, the creator [SandNpolish] got tons of positive feedback — and so he should. Made out of solid brass and tigerwood, the level of detail he put into it is incredible. From the carved lions face on an antler bone, being used as an end cap for the cryptex, to the other end, a piece of Damascus steel. The whole thing is gorgeous. He made almost everything by hand, making use of a lathe to shape the cylinders, and a milling machine to notch the inner teeth of the lock. The entire gallery of images is a pleasure to scroll through to see the project from start to finish.

We’ve seen lots of cryptex combination locks over the years here at Hack a Day — from something as simple as a paper-craft cryptex, to one made out of PVC pipe, and of course, even a 3D printed one. But all of them seem to be missing the fun part — as portrayed in the Da Vinci Code — where’s the vinegar and papyrus damn it!

Hackaday Links: May 18, 2014

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Think the original Pong is cool? How about point to point Pong? [v8ltd] did it in three months, soldering all the leads directly to the chip pins. No sockets required. It’s insane, awesome, a masterpiece of craftsmanship, and surprising it works.

[Jeremy Cook] is building a servo-powered light graffiti thing and needed a laser diode. How do you control a laser pointer with a microcontroller? Here’s how. They’re finicky little buggers, but if you get the three-pack from Amazon like [Jeremy] did, you get three chances to get it right.

NFC tags in everything! [Becky] at Adafruit is putting them in everything. Inside 3D printed rings, glued onto rings, and something really clever: glued to your thumbnail with nail polish. Now you can unlock your phone with your thumb instead of your index finger.

Photographs capture still frames, but wouldn’t it be great if a camera could capture moving images? No, we’re not talking about video because this is the Internet where every possible emotion, reaction, and situation can be expressed with an animated GIF. Meet OTTO, the camera that captures animated GIFs! It’s powered by the Raspberry Pi compute module, so that’s interesting.

[Nate] was getting tired of end mills rolling around his bench. That’s a bad thing. He came up with a solution, though: Mill a piece of plywood into a tray to hold end mills.

The Da Vinci printer, a printer that only costs $500 because they’re banking on the Gillette model, has been cracked wide open by resetting the DRM, getting rid of the proprietary host software, and unbricking the device. Now there’s a concerted effort to develop custom firmware for the Da Vinci printer. It’s extraordinarily bare bones right now, but the pins on the microcontroller are mapped, and RepRap firmwares are extremely modular.

Unbricking The Da Vinci And Installing Custom Firmware

We’ve seen a lot of projects based around the Da Vinci 3D printer, all deserved, because the Da Vinci is honestly a terrible 3D printer; it has chipped and DRM filament cartridges, a terrible software interface, and completely closed firmware. The first two shortcomings have already been taken care of, and now the door is open for open source firmware on the Da Vinci printer.

[Jason] bricked his Da Vinci when upgrading the firmware, and like any enterprising tinkerer opened up the enclosure and took a look at the electronics board. He found an ATSAM3X8E, a very capable ARM Cortex-M3 microcontroller. This is the same processor in the Arduino Due, making it possible to write code for the Due and upload it to the Da Vinci controller.

After installing Atmel Studio 6, he noticed the printer controller showed up in the device manager, making it a snap to upload updated firmware, unbricking his printer.

With the ability to upload firmware, the problem quickly becomes writing new open source firmware, or at least porting existing firmwares; there are a few people across the internet trying to reverse engineer the board schematic from the PCB. Once that’s done, it should be a trivial matter to make the Da Vinci an open device, and teaching a lesson to every company that thinks they can sell a closed device in what is ultimately an open ecosystem.

Using Non-Crappy Software With The Da Vinci Printer

The Da Vinci printer from XYZprinting is turning out to be one of the best buys in the world of cheap, consumer printers. Sure, it uses chipped filament, but that’s an easy fix for anyone who knows what a .hex file is. And yes, the Da Vinci host software is a mess of proprietary garbage with limited functionality, but [Mark] has figured out a way around that.

When [Mark] received his Da Vinci, he immediately started snooping around inside the printer’s guts, like any good tinkerer should. He found an SD card holding all the sample prints that ship with the printer, all in a convenient Gcode format. Inside these sample .STL files were all the calls you would expect – setting the temperature, changing the layer height, and all the other good stuff you’d find in any other RepRap.

With a little bit of modification to .STL files generated by any slicing program, [Mark] isn’t limited any more by the terrible host software that ships with the Da Vinci. Combine this with the ability to reset the chip inside the filament cartridge, and [Mark] has a printer at least as functional as any open hardware model.

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