In this paper we present the design, fabrication, and testing of a robot for automatically positioning ultrasound imaging catheters. Our system will point ultrasound (US) catheters to provide real-time imaging of anatomical structures and working instruments during minimally invasive surgeries. Manually navigating US catheters is difficult and requires extensive training in order to aim the US imager at desired targets. Therefore, a four DOF robotic system was developed to automatically navigate US imaging catheters for enhanced imaging. A rotational transmission enables three DOF for pitch, yaw, and roll of the imager. This transmission is translated by the fourth DOF. An accuracy analysis was conducted to calculate the maximum allowable joint motion error. Rotational joints must be accurate to within 1.5° and the translational joint must be accurate within 1.4 mm. Motion tests were then conducted to validate the accuracy of the robot. The average resulting errors in positioning of the rotational joints were measured to be 0.28°–0.38° with average measured backlash error 0.44°. Average translational positioning and backlash errors were measured to be significantly lower than the reported accuracy of the position sensor. The resulting joint motion errors were well within the required specifications for accurate robot motion. Such effective navigation of US imaging catheters will enable better visualization in various procedures ranging from cardiac arrhythmia treatment to tumor removal in urological cases.

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