Estimating tool-tissue forces using a 3-degree-of-freedom robotic surgical tool

Baoliang Zhao, Carl A. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Robot-assisted minimally invasive surgery (MIS) has gained popularity due to its high dexterity and reduced invasiveness to the patient; however, due to the loss of direct touch of the surgical site, surgeons may be prone to exert larger forces and cause tissue damage. To quantify tool-tissue interaction forces, researchers have tried to attach different kinds of sensors on the surgical tools. This sensor attachment generally makes the tools bulky and/or unduly expensive and may hinder the normal function of the tools; it is also unlikely that these sensors can survive harsh sterilization processes. This paper investigates an alternative method by estimating tool-tissue interaction forces using driving motors' current, and validates this sensorless force estimation method on a 3-degree-offreedom (DOF) robotic surgical grasper prototype. The results show that the performance of this method is acceptable with regard to latency and accuracy. With this tool-tissue interaction force estimation method, it is possible to implement force feedback on existing robotic surgical systems without any sensors. This may allow a haptic surgical robot which is compatible with existing sterilization methods and surgical procedures, so that the surgeon can obtain tool-tissue interaction forces in real time, thereby increasing surgical efficiency and safety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number051015
JournalJournal of Mechanisms and Robotics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


  • Decoupling
  • Motor current
  • Robot-assisted minimally invasive surgery
  • Sensorless force estimation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanical Engineering


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