The Role of miBot Micromanipulators to Achieve Multi-Robots Cooperation

Micromanipulator is a device that interacts with samples under microscope to achieve precise movement that cannot be achieved by human hand. It is used in conjunction with microscopes in biological research and positioning test probes in microelectronics. Applications of micromanipulators include industrial micromanipulation, such as packaged parts, semiconductors & microelectronics. Furthermore, it is used widely in cell micromanipulation applications, such as embryonic stem cell transfer and intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection. The selection of specific micromanipulator depends upon the level of precision and movement required for particular application. Increasing infertility issues across the globe and acceptance of IVF techniques are creating opportunities for micromanipulators. 

Researchers at Hamlyn Center for Robotic Surgery of Imperial College London conducted an experiment to develop multi-robot cooperation using micromanipulators. Robotic manipulation of samples to be measured in microns need high precision and dexterity. Spherical particles of 50μm in diameter, which resemble with biological cells in shape & size, were selected as a specimen in experiment. An upright optical microscope Zeiss Axio Zoom.V16, computer software application, and miBot micromanipulators developed by Imina Technologies with custom compliant end-effectors were used make the micro-robotics system.

At least two robots were required to operate cooperatively to enhance manipulation of objects. In this experiment, visual servoing technique was used to determine the position of particles and the position of the end-effectors in the microscope video film. The technique was capable of predicting direction of motion of robots, their orientation, and modulate their speed. The biggest advantage of using this technique was to simplify movement of particles in three dimensions. An operator could mirror the movement of right manipulator with left manipulator, instead of controlling both manipulators separately. The closed-loop control was programmed using software development kit of Imina Technologies.

Manipulation of spherical particles via pointed probe tips required high precision, though visual servoing framework provided good accuracy. End-effectors were needed to carry out flexible motions in more than one dimension. A custom end-effector with features, such as cupped shape for fitting the object to be manipulated and flexible spring for compliance during contact were needed. The end-effector has to make contact even when an overshoot takes place. For this purpose, direct laser writing was used to fabricate a compliant end-effector with 75μm in length and 20μm in diameter at probe tips of the manipulator. 

This experiment proved that miBot mobile micro-robots by Imina Technologies operates with nanometer resolution to provide smooth motion for multi-robot cooperation. Flexible orienting and locating of end-effector that adjusts to different shapes and dimension was possible with miBot micromanipulators. Potential applications in which this solution can be used are cell measurements, tissue engineering, and cell enucleation.

Analysts studying the micromanipulators market have presented information about changing market trends in research reports. Recently, Allied Market Research has published a report titled, “World Micromanipulators Market - Opportunities and Forecasts, 2014 – 2020.” As per the report, the world micromanipulators market is estimated to register a CAGR of 25.8% from 2015 to 2020. The report offers a comprehensive analysis of key drivers & opportunities, classification, applications, detailed segmentation, and key manufacturers analysis. Key findings about types & regions of micromanipulators and value chain analysis mentioned in the study would help market players to devise business strategies and consolidate their position.

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