Joint project SteriRob

  Human hand hands a surgical clamp to the robotic arm Copyright: © IRT

Sensor System for the Identification and Handling of Sterile Surgical Instruments


Key Info

Basic Information

01.03.2019 to 28.02.2022
Biomedical Systems



Tim Redick

Mobility Group Manager


+49 241 80-27481




The shortage of personnel prevailing in the central sterile supply department (CSSD) combined with cost pressure leads to a high error rate in the supply of surgical instruments. Reliable sterile supply is thus becoming increasingly difficult but is essential for a successful surgery. In practice, high error rates of up to 30% occur, resulting in unnecessary complications and high costs.


Project Goals and Methods

Sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research

The aim of the project is to automate process steps in clinical sterile supply, such as the cleaning, sorting, and provision of surgical instruments, with the aid of service robots. For this purpose, a novel RFID system is being developed that enables the unique identification of instruments and their spatial location. The challenges in the implementation lie in the variety of different instruments and on their chaotic position in the tray. Moreover the complexity of the processes within the sterile supply poses a challenge. Specifically, this project will investigate grasping and handling of both the surgical instruments and the trays loaded with instruments.

The Institute of Automatic Control works on the control of instrument handling. In order to enable an unambiguous pose determination of the instruments and sieves, different algorithms for the sensor fusion of the RFID data with the data of a 3D sensor system are tested. In addition, a control module is developed to ensure collision-free and safe gripping of the objects. The functionality of the module will be tested in a field trial in cooperation with the University Hospitals of Aachen and Essen.


Innovations and Perspectives

Compared to previous efforts which aimed to improve processes in the CSSD, the methods developed in SteriRob enable a holistic optimization of sterile supply. The automated handling and recording of instruments via RFID chips allows them to be tracked throughout the entire process, thus establishing higher quality standards. Due to the scarcity of resources and current legal framework conditions, the system is expected to find broad application in the sterile supply of hospitals.

Project partner