DIY Surgery: The Future Of Medicine?


In 2015, if you need an operation, you go to a hospital. The Open Surgery Machine imagines a future in which getting an appendectomy is as DIY as downloading a template from Thingsverse and firing up your MakerBot: an open-source robot surgeon in a box that is capable of performing simple, low-cost operations safely and with little doctor intervention.

Frank Kolkman is a Dutch-born interaction designer who recently graduated from London’s Royal College of Art. He tells me that the inspiration for the Open Surgery Machine wasn’t sci-fi, but YouTube. “America has the most advanced health care industry in the world, but there is this growing group of middle-class U.S. citizens who have no access to it, and YouTube is currently filling this gap,” he says. “Mainly uninsured Americans are sharing videos on how to perform hacks on yourself as an alternative to professional care.” (You can see some of these videos here, although you’ll want a strong stomach to click that link.)

Conceptually, Kolkman’s Surgery Robot explores the idea of combining DIY medical pragmatism with the more capable innovations found in medical industries. It’s designed to perform simple surgeries like laparoscopic surgery, in which three or more small keyhole incisions are made to allow a surgeon to operate inside a part of a patient’s body after inflating it with CO2, reducing the risk of infection. That would allow the DIY Surgery Robot to perform (again, theoretically—the concept is non-functional) appendectomies, prostate operations, hysterectomies, and also colon and general inspections. These procedures are already often performed with the assistance of robotic surgery systems; the DIY Surgery Robot would just take those doctors out of the equation.

Ultimately, the Surgery Robot is only intended as the focus point of a thought experiment: What if there was just as robust an online community of hobbyists, engineers, and designers for alternative health care products as there are for 3-D printer and CNC milling machines? “I hope that by challenging the socioeconomic frameworks the current health care systems operate within, where health care is valued in terms of money and labor, my project raises questions about the social value of health care by showing an alternative approach,” Kolkman says.

But the designer is also frank about the fact that he thinks it’s unlikely that something like the DIY Surgical Robot could get off the ground. Even taking the legal and liability aspects of the project out of the equation, patents would likely kill it as a commercial product in the incubation stage: most of the base technologies relied upon for robot surgery are thoroughly patented and rigorously guarded.

You can read more about Kolkman’s Open Surgery project here


assembling a DIY CNC

The step-by-step methods used to construct a basic CNC mill are a useful example of how computer controls can be applied to a relatively small machine. In addition, home CNC machining projects illustrate the fundamental principles by which most computer programmed controls operate. As with any do-it-yourself project, however, it is crucial to first obtain the proper skills and training necessary for working with CNC equipment. Personal preparation and observance of safety protocols are important, as is the close adherence to manufacturer recommendations before attempting to construct or modify any device.

Preparing the Components

Assembling a home CNC machine requires a particular set of components, most of which can be purchased from hardware suppliers, obtained from surplus devices, or built with commercially available products and tools. While there are numerous variations on the types of components that may be used, as well as a wide range of different combinations for them, the following list of parts may be used as a general guideline:

• Stepper motor: This is a relatively high-torque motor with multiple coils and wires, and is available in both unipolar and bipolar configurations.

• Drive screw: The drive screw can be made from a threaded metal rod coupled with a complementary nut to reduce drag.

• Linear Slides: Linear slides may be taken from a multi-axis cutting table or manufactured from machined steel with ball bearings and an angled roller.

• Controller: The controller unit regulates the machine’s motors and provides an interface for the operator. For a more detailed list of the components used in its assembly, see “Components for a Do-It-Yourself CNC Machine.”

Assembling a Controller Device

Assembling the controller unit for a home CNC lathe or mill largely depends on putting together translator chips and networking cables that will be linked to the motor. Do-it-yourselfers often use standard 8- or 16-pin sockets to mount the translators onto a pre-printed and drilled processor board. The controller can then be attached to a parallel port array with soldered connections.

A typical stepper motor has four electrical coils with six wires attached. Each pair of coils has corresponding common and dedicated leads. The resistance between the leads can be measured by a multi-meter in order to identify each wire. The resistance across a set of coils is generally double that of a single coil and wires connected to separate coil pairs will provide higher resistance as well. In some cases, the motor may have linked common leads. There are normally six output connections on a controller unit and a group of three wires should connect to each pair of coils on the motor.

Threaded Rods

Before beginning work on the structural components in a small CNC machine, it may be helpful to invest in a couple of sturdy cutting boards for use as workpieces, as well as a sharp table saw or circular miter saw. The threaded rod must be able to move within the motor apparatus while also being anchored for stability, and ball bearings can be used for installation. First, holes around the same size as the diameter of the ball bearings are drilled into the cutting board. Next, a slot is cut using the miter saw, and a machine screw hole is drilled into the cutting board workpiece. The ball bearings are positioned between nuts tightened along the threaded rod with a wrench, and the machine screw and bearings are secured into the machine block.

The Mechanical Frame

Constructing a mechanical base usually requires some careful design planning to evaluate the overall size of the finished machine and the subsequent amount of material that will be necessary to fabricate it. Measuring the machine’s axes and positioning the components is one way of planning the layout. Next, the table or miter saw can be used to shape the cutting boards into pieces for the machine’s framework. A flat base can serve as a foundation if holes are drilled for machine screws to be threaded into the material. A bearing block can be added into the rectangular frame once holes have been drilled and rods are installed to maintain the structure’s

The Upper Axis

The upper portion of the CNC machine can be constructed with a pair of simple sliding rails or with a larger slider at the base. A three-sided tower can be attached to the edge of the base, with the center piece shaped from the same cut as the bottom section. To drill more accurate holes, screw the pieces together first and then use the drill press to make mounting holes. The central sliding device must have holes aligned for both the slider and the threaded rod, while a nut can be used to properly secure them. Using a sander or other smoothing tool to contour the sliding unit can make it easier to mount without weakening the stability of the metal components.

After the slider has been installed, the holes for the axes need to be drilled and screws may be used to position them. A dremel shaft can be used to create a mount for a rotating tool, and one with greater flexibility can help reduce vibration. Motor mount brackets will serve to secure the stepper motors in place. Finally, after these components have been fitted together, various CNC software programs can be set up for use on the machine. The controller interface allows the user to control the machine through these computer programs.

ThomasNet Site Design

Here is an email I got from Thomasnet, I’m on their mailing list, I thought it would make good content for you all to view.


Leading Industrial Destination Site Builds on 110 Years of Experience Bringing Buyers and Sellers Together

(July 21, 2008 – NEW YORK, NY) – Buyers and engineers who want to find copper wire or spare parts for a lathe, or access a custom CAD drawing all by lunchtime have a faster and more efficient resource than ever before, as ThomasNet rolls out new features that enhance its site,

The additions to the site are very timely. In the current economic environment, purchasers and specifiers of industrial parts, products and services are more time-squeezed due to downsizing and increased bottom-line pressures. New features to the site are aimed at helping these professionals save time, increase productivity and make more informed supplier selections, based on research that shows purchasers and engineers now put a greater premium on quick and easy access to information.

A new homepage meets this need by bringing together a wide range of essential content in a single, intuitive interface. Now, with one consolidated view, users can access the Internet’s most widely used database of industrial suppliers, in addition to white papers, community forums for knowledge sharing, and the Web’s largest collection of industrial news.

From a single search box, users can search over 607,000 industrial suppliers, indexed by 70,000 product and service categories, and have access to thousands of industrial product catalogs and over 20 million CAD drawings. now also offers a new and quickly growing library of over 800 white papers and case studies provided by thought leaders in manufacturing on product applications, processes and technologies.

“Users have spoken and we’ve listened,” said Brad Mehl, Vice President, “We’ve taken their feedback and examined their workflow. Based on that, we have added key functionality they need to conduct business more quickly and efficiently.  These improvements create an even stronger connection between the qualified buyers who rely on and the sellers who are actively seeking them out.”

Other new time-saving features and functionality include:

The ability to add or remove search criteria as users see fit.  This provides more robust narrowing or expansion of searches—i.e., the ability to view only suppliers with online product catalogs, CAD drawings or both, or ones that meet additional criteria such as ISO certifications.

Greater personalization through saved searches. Registered users can save individual suppliers or short lists of multiple suppliers where they can view selected companies side by side, eliminating unnecessary time needed to re-run searches. Upon returning to, their saved suppliers and short lists are readily viewable in a personalized section of their homepage.

Improved local searching, particularly key in light of rising fuel costs, and the increased expense of moving freight across longer distances. users seeking local manufacturers, distributors and service providers now enjoy a prominent choice of viewing suppliers located in specific areas or expanding their geographic area.

Free access to Request for Information/Proposal/Quote (RFx) and Reverse Auction Tools to increase the speed and efficiency of the procurement process. These tools eliminate the need for purchasers to sort through and manage

supplier responses to quotes via disparate emails and faxes. Instead of the usual information barrage – a major complaint of purchasing professionals – users can centrally manage these communications and share them with colleagues. Importantly, these free tools can be immediately incorporated into their workflow through an easy interface that requires no training. The tools are available for ThomasNet users through an exclusive partnership with Source One Management Services, LLC, a leading procurement service provider.

A new Tools and Gadgets Center filled with useful resources provides:

o A feature-rich toolbar specifically developed for the manufacturing community, which gives users the option of searching or general search engines. This ThomasNet toolbar offers 19 different features, including the ability to view additional supplier information with one click, when visiting the Website of a company in ThomasNet’s comprehensive database.

o For Google toolbar users, ThomasNet offers a “ThomasNet Express” button that can be added to the Google toolbar, which conveniently searches

o iGoogle integration. This utility enables users to add a ThomasNet search box to their personalized homepages developed via iGoogle.

o A 10-in-1 conversion calculator (for Microsoft Vista users), which enables engineers to do quick calculations of popular engineering formulas.

About ThomasNetSM

ThomasNet ( is the leading online destination connecting industrial sellers and buyers worldwide. Buyers from Fortune 500 companies, the government, the military and more depend on ThomasNet to search for and purchase the products and services they need. ThomasNet provides access to over 607,000 industrial companies, indexed by 70,000 product and service categories, and featuring over 20 million CAD drawings that help buyers find products to meet their specifications. Industrial manufacturers and service companies are successfully using ThomasNet to grow their businesses, discover new markets, develop new customers, and uncover new revenue sources. Drawing from the company’s experience in the industrial market and ongoing research on buyers’ and sellers’ needs, ThomasNet has helped thousands of clients create websites that incorporate online catalogs, CAD drawings, and e-commerce capabilities.