This paper presents the design of a grasping instrument for minimally invasive surgery. Due to its small dimensions a compliant mechanism seems promising. To obtain force feedback, the positive stiffness of the compliant grasper must be statically balanced by a negative-stiffness compensation mechanism. For the design of compliant mechanisms, topology optimization can be used. The goal of this paper is to investigate the applicability of topology optimization to the design of a compliant laparoscopic grasper and particularly a compliant negative-stiffness compensation mechanism. In this study, the problem is subdivided in the grasper part and the compensation part. In the grasper part the deflection at the tip of the grasper is optimized. This results in a design that has a virtually linear force-displacement characteristic that forms the input for the compensation part. In the compensation part the difference between the force-displacement characteristic of the grasper part and the characteristic of the compensation part is minimized. An optimization problem is formulated enabling a pre-stress to be incorporated, which is required to obtain the negative stiffness in the compensation part. We can conclude that topology optimization is a promising approach in the field of statically balanced compliant mechanism design, even though there is great scope improvement of the method.

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