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Hyundai Heavy Industries -New Surgical Robot Doctor

The Robot Surgeons.

Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., a South Korean shipbuilding and machinery giant, said Monday that it has developed critical components for the country's first surgical assistant robot, Yonhap news agency reported.

The company said it won certification from the Ministry of Knowledge Economy for the main body and control system for "Robodoc," which won permission from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in surgery.

The development effectively permits Robodoc to be completely made with indigenous technology and parts, without relying on foreign suppliers. The machine has been approved for human joint repair surgery and can be operated "hands off" with minimal human oversight.

"The development is noteworthy because there have been steady calls to make local parts, instead of relying exclusively on imports that hurt profit levels," the company said.

It added that the experience and knowhow learned could be used to grab the market for other surgical robots that can engage in very complicated vertebra and brain surgeries down the road.

Robodoc, currently made by Curexo Inc. in Bundang, south of Seoul, was originally developed by Integrated Surgical Systems (ISS), a United States company that was spun off from IBM.

The South Korean company had bought up related patents and assets after the ISS initially failed to win operating permission from the FDA.

Hyundai Heavy Industries, which had teamed up with Curexo for the development project, said it will start full scale production of the robot's main body this year with the locally developed control system to be incorporated on the surgical assistance machine starting in 2013.

The South Korean company said that accumulated sales should reach 200 billion won (US$178.5 million) by 2015, with Robodoc expected to capture 60 percent of the global surgical assistant robot market that could grow 20 percent annually every year. The global market could reach 12 trillion won in 2014.

Hyundai Heavy Industries, which operates the world's largest shipyard and engages in the manufacturing of industrial robots, said talks, are presently underway to get more domestic hospitals to use the surgical robot that can create a market needed for more investments and production.


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