Pathfinder advanced shape sensing platform

Pathfinder shape sensing platform enables the reconstruction and display of the entire shape of a thin, flexible optical fiber. When integrated into medical devices, this provides robots and surgeons with unprecedented feedback on the location and guidance of surgical tools, enables endless opportunities in robotic control, and frees patients from harmful radiative imaging alternatives.

Whenever line of sight is not an option, Pathfinder shape sensor platform provides the critical information required to make the right decision in the most difficult environments. In addition to the medical field it empowers numerous applications in the Aerospace, Civil Engineering, Mining and Energy markets. 

Unlike alternative shape sensing technologies, our solution supports tortuous paths, 6 degrees of freedom, twist and more than 1 meter sensing length.

Pathfinder advanced shape sensing platform features

  • Monitors a single 3D shape sensor
  • Minimum 60 frames per second refresh rate
  • Maximum 30ms hardware latency
  • Desktop unit can be used in laboratory environment
  • Connects to any TSSC shape sensor
  • Displays shape in real time on a screen or streams via Ethernet
  • Shape measurements are automatically compensated for changes in temperature

What Pathfinder shape sensors platform can measure

  • 3D shape
  • Twist
  • Bending direction and bending radius
  • Strain
  • Temperature
  • Force (haptic feedback)
  • Pressure

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Background on Fiber Optics Sensing

Fiber optic sensors offer several unique advantages over conventional electrical based sensors. These advantages include immunity to electromagnetic interference, being extremely lightweight and small, embeddability, and excellent fatigue life.

The most significant advantage of the The Shape Sensing Company technology is the ability to acquire spatially continuous information along the entire length of an optical fiber with only a single lead cable. Single point measurement devices, such as a strain gauge, only capture information at a discrete point while requiring multiple lead cables and hours to perform an installation.

A single fiber spanning upwards of 10 m, in contrast, can act akin to thousands of strain gauges or thermocouples installed adjacent to one another without the cumbersome associated wire bundles. For these reasons, fiber optic sensors are employed in wide variety of industries including civil, mechanical, aerospace, medical, nuclear, oil, wind energy, and automotive.

An optical fiber is comprised of three primary components:

  • The Core
  • Cladding
  • Coating

The core and cladding are both made from silica glass, however, the optical properties of each differ. Specifically, the refractive index  of the core, which describes the speed at which light travels through a material, is slightly increased during the manufacturing process. This refractive index profile is fundamentally what forms the waveguide, enabling light to be transmitted over long distances in the core with very low attenuation.

The outermost layer, the coating, is applied to the outside of the cladding to increase the robustness of the fiber while protecting the glass from contaminants such as dirt and moisture. For strain sensing applications, this coating is extremely stiff to provide a load path for strain to transfer from the substrate into the core. These three primary layers of the optical fiber structure are depicted in Figure 1(a), as well as the typical dimensions of each for single-mode fiber.

(a) The typical cross-section of single-mode fiber. Lead fiber is often packaged with additional protective layers to form a fiber optic cable, as shown in (b).

For additional environmental protection, fiber is often encased within auxiliary buffer tubes or jackets to form a fiber optic cable, otherwise known as a patch cord. As shown in Figure 1(b), fiber is commonly packaged in a tight buffer jacket and loosely incorporated into an outer jacket filled with strength members such as Kevlar strands. These patch cords serve as standoff cables between the sensor and the interrogator.