Fabrication of a thin-film capacitive force sensor array for tactile feedback in robotic surgery

Annu Int Conf IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2012;2012:2355-8. doi: 10.1109/EMBC.2012.6346436.


Although surgical robotic systems provide several advantages over conventional minimally invasive techniques, they are limited by a lack of tactile feedback. Recent research efforts have successfully integrated tactile feedback components onto surgical robotic systems, and have shown significant improvement to surgical control during in vitro experiments. The primary barrier to the adoption of tactile feedback in clinical use is the unavailability of suitable force sensing technologies. This paper describes the design and fabrication of a thin-film capacitive force sensor array that is intended for integration with tactile feedback systems. This capacitive force sensing technology could provide precise, high-sensitivity, real-time responses to both static and dynamic loads. Capacitive force sensors were designed to operate with optimal sensitivity and dynamic range in the range of forces typical in minimally invasive surgery (0-40 N). Initial results validate the fabrication of these capacitive force-sensing arrays. We report 16.3 pF and 146 pF for 1-mm(2) and 9-mm(2) capacitive areas, respectively, whose values are within 3% of theoretical predictions.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Electric Capacitance*
  • Equipment Design
  • Equipment Failure Analysis
  • Man-Machine Systems*
  • Membranes, Artificial*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Robotics / instrumentation*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Surgery, Computer-Assisted / instrumentation*
  • Touch*
  • Transducers, Pressure*


  • Membranes, Artificial