The ‘STIFF-FLOP’ Project

Learning flexible surgical manipulator of controlled rigidity – Stiffness controllable Flexible and Learnable manipulator for surgical Operations (STIFF-FLOP).

‘STIFF-FLOP’ is a flexible manipulator of controlled rigidity, capable of learning, used for performance of surgical procedures (Stiffness controllable Flexible and Learn-able manipulator for surgical Operations).

Project purposes:

The goal of the project is to build an innovative soft robotic arm that will be able to: 

  • Pass through a standard port for low-invasive surgery (approx. 12-20 mm diameter);
  • Change its configuration including rigidity (controlled hydrostatically) for correct operation, also after occurrence of an expected situation in the environment of the arm.

The project will build a complete system consisting of the following:

  • Design and fabrication of a soft arm with a gripper;
  • Distributed sensor system;
  • Biologically inspired system of interaction and control;
  • System of learning by interaction with the operator;
  • System for manipulation of objects in complex and uncertain spaces.

The project proposes a solution for robotic laparoscopic surgery that faces the problem of restricted access via trocar and operation in space filled with body organs. 

Implementation timeframe: 01/01/201231/12/2015

Contract number: 287 728, 7th Framework Program

Project budget: EUR 9,554,661.00

Project type: International research project

Coordinator: King’s College London, UK


  • Scuola Superiore Di Studi Universitari E Di, Italy
  • Fundacion Tecnalia Research & Innovation, Spain 
  • Industrial Research Institute for Automation and Measurements (PIAP), Poland
  • Fondazione Instituto Italiano Di Tecnologia, Italy
  • The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
  • University of Surrey, UK
  • Universitaet Siegen, Germany
  • The Shadow Robot Company Limited, UK
  • Z. Religa Cardiac Surgery Development Foundation, Poland
  • E.A.E.S., the Netherlands
  • Universita Degli Studi Di Torino, Italy