Researchers in Italy are incorporating coffee grounds and the same kind of vacuum sealing used in coffee packaging and storage to create an Octopus-inspired robotic arm that can navigate through the insides of human bodies while minimizing pressure on organs.
The arm, part of the European Commission’s Stiff-Flop (STIFFness controllable Flexible and Learn-able Manipulator for surgical OPerations) project, is as creepy as it sounds. Look at it go!
The robotic is designed to reduce the numbers of instruments and incisions used in surgical operations, with part of the arm being used to manipulate organs while the other part operates. It is a potential solution to the stiff, rigid parts that typically compose other robotic arms and devices used in remote applications.
Making it extra creepy, the arm has variable stiffness, which allows for parts of the arm to stiffen up to hold organs into place while the other part of the arm attends to its wiggly surgery business.
The stiffness is made possible though a process called “granualar jamming” and the scientists have found that ground coffee provides the best material. The grinds are moved robotically to the part of the arm where stiffness is required, then vacuum sealing packs them together to the desired firmness within a given arm module.
We’re not sure who is supplying the coffee, what grinders the scientists may be using, nor what the ideal grind size is for octopus-arm-module stiffness in organ abutment.