This work is part of a multidisciplinary project developing design and manufacturing methods for narrow-gauge surgical instruments intended for advanced minimally invasive surgery. The instruments are designed specifically for Penn State’s lost mold rapid infiltration forming process, which is capable of fabricating hundreds of freestanding meso-scale parts. In previous work, a 1 mm diameter forceps case study demonstrated the design and fabrication process. The forceps is a monolithic compliant mechanism (CM) that relies on contact to re-distribute maximum stresses to generate larger elastic tip deflections; a phenomenon defined here as contact stress-relief. Prototypes were developed and evaluated in an end user surgical simulator. Feedback from 11 clinicians identified the total jaw opening of the forceps must be increased in the next generation of prototypes. This paper focuses on exploiting the benefits of contact-aided compliant mechanism (CCM) design to obtain larger elastic tip deflections and thus jaw openings. Using the commercially available finite element software package ANSYS to model large deformation and contact, an optimization problem is developed to determine the effects of incorporating additional contact elements in a CCM design on maximizing elastic tip deflection. Results show that designs with multiple contact elements generate larger elastic tip deflections due to a multi-stage contact stress-relief profile.

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