Engineers at the University of Twente have developed a new biopsy robot made from 3D-printed plastic. This allows it to operate inside a MRI scanner so accurate biopsies can be taken with real-time visualization of the abnormal tissue. It's hoped the device will offer doctors a new way to accurately biopsy and diagnose breast cancer in its early stages.

The Stormram 4 has been designed to be free of all the conductive metals that robots usually consist of, making it functional under the strong magnetic field within an MRI scanner. The device is small, 3D printed from plastic, and is driven by air-pressure instead of electricity.

This fourth iteration of the robot is the smallest the team has developed and it can now fit inside an MRI scanner's slim tunnel. Five-meter (16.4-ft) long air-pipes run to an external controller, allowing the robot to be directed from outside the MRI. Preliminary tests show the robot can target tissue with sub-millimeter precision when equipped with an MRI compatible needle, a degree of accuracy that would be impossible for a human operator to achieve.

The team developed the robot in collaboration with a radiologist at Ziekenhuis Groep Twente with a view to making the device suitable for clinical practice. The innovation also recently won an award at the international Hamlyn Symposium in London as part of the Surgical Robotic Challenge.

Take a look at the robot biopsy machine in the video below.

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