Brigham Young University (BYU) researchers have engineered new minimally invasive surgery concepts that eliminate the need for pin joints and other parts, instead relying on the deflection inherent in origami to create motion.

“These small instruments will allow for a whole new range of surgeries to be performed—hopefully one day manipulating things as small as nerves,” said BYU mechanical engineering professor Spencer Magleby.

The team's robotically controlled forceps, for example, is so small that it can pass through a hole about 3 millimeters in size.

Similarly, a D-Core device, inserted into an incision, begins flat and expands to become two rounded surfaces that roll on each other, mimicking the movement made by spinal discs.

BYU recently licensed a series of compliant mechanism technologies to Intuitive Surgical, a leader in robotic surgery and the maker of the popular da Vinci Surgical System.