IDC Robotic PillA robotic pill has been developed which will be used to deliver medication to a targeted area of the intestines which can be a difficult part of the body to treat using conventional approaches.
IDC Models, the rapid prototyping and model making division of UK-based Industrial Design Consultancy (IDC), has contributed to the development of a new advance in the realm of robotic pills. The tiny device will be used to deliver medication to a targeted area of the intestines which can be a difficult part of the body to treat using conventional approaches.
The robotic pill is being developed by Stephen Woods and Tim Constandinou at Imperial College, part of the University of London, UK, and uses miniature mechanical mechanisms embedded within the pill to administer a 1 ml dose of medication. The pill is swallowed by a patient and travels naturally through the patient’s body to the small intestine. Its movements through the body can be tracked by the medical team. When it reaches the target location, the operator sends a remote signal to the robotic pill instructing it to send out its legs to hold it in position. The medical team can then instruct it to inject medication directly into the target site. It is believed that this direct treatment will be extremely effective in controlling pathologies of the GI tract, such as intestinal cancer or small intestinal Crohn's disease.
Imperial College was keen to showcase prototypes of the robotic pill to the medical community, but was faced with the challenge of finding a company, such as IDC, which was able to offer such technology in miniature. Peter Pendergast, Head of IDC Models, explains, “The total size of the pill is only 30 mm by 11 mm, so you can appreciate how minute the robotic components must be to fit inside. We have worked closely with Stephen Woods at Imperial College to refine the robotics and our Viper SLA has produced components that go down to only 1.75mm2 in size.”
Imperial College provided the CAD files and IDC Models used their Viper Stereolithography (SLA) machine, a 3D printer that constructs models by selectively hardening liquid resin. The process involves slicing a CAD model into crosssections which are traced by high power laser onto the surface of the resin. The resin cures and hardens where the laser hits, allowing objects to be built up layer by layer. The SLA machine can produce minute components with an accuracy of ±0.05mm.
The robotic pill has already received much positive feedback and the prototypes will be used to seek further investment for product development.