Vacuum packed particles as flexible endoscope guides with controllable rigidity


In order to fully benefit from the functionalities of flexible endoscopes in surgery a simple shaft-guide that can be used to support the flexible endoscope shaft is required. Such a shaft-guide must be flexible during insertion into the human body and rigidified when properly positioned to support the flexible endoscope shaft. A shaft-guide called ‘Vacu-SL’ was designed, consisting of a foil tube, filled with particles, that is rigidified by creating a vacuum in its tube. It is expected that the bending stiffness of a loaded, rigidified Vacu-SL shaft-guide is significantly influenced by the shape, hardness and size of the filler particles used. The goal of this study was to find the relations between the filler particles’ size, shape and hardness and a rigidified Vacu-SL shaft-guide’s bending stiffness. Vacu-SL test models were made using polystyrene, acrylic glass, glass, steel, and corundum particles as spheres, pebbles and granulate, with average diameters between 0.16–1.7 mm. These test models were rigidified and then loaded in a tensile tester. The forces needed for 5 and 10 mm deflections of the rigidified test models were measured. The results show that particle size, shape and hardness all influence a rigidified Vacu-SL shaft-guide’s bending stiffness. Size and hardness showed an optimum and granules performed better than spheres. Although the maximally measured bending stiffness might be insufficient to enable proper guidance of flexible endoscope shafts, the results suggest several ways to successfully improve the Vacu-SL shaft-guide.


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These tests were made possible due to Marc Los’ efforts in the pilot studies and the efforts of Sebastiaan Kiemel and Martijn Jansen during the tests. Marc, Sebastiaan and Martijn are Mechanical Engineering students of the Delft University of Technology.

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Correspondence to Arjo J. Loeve.

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Loeve, A.J., van de Ven, O.S., Vogel, J.G. et al. Vacuum packed particles as flexible endoscope guides with controllable rigidity. Granular Matter 12, 543–554 (2010).

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  • Size
  • Shape
  • Hardness
  • Vacuum
  • Shaft-guide
  • Endoscopy