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BEC uses KUKA robots in particle-based radiotherapy

Positioning patients with millimeter precisions at the MedAustron particle therapy center

In particle-based radiotherapy, a high-energy particle beam strikes the tumor and destroys it. As the beam can only be moved in a very limited manner, the patient must be aligned to the beam with the result that more and more robotic solutions for patient positioning are being introduced in this form of therapy. Millimeter precision is the number-one priority.

Buck Engineering & Consulting GmbH (BEC), based in the Swabian city of Reutlingen, specializes in the development, manufacture and marketing of medical systems for moving and positioning patients. For this purpose, they have developed the modular patient positioning system exacure. Thanks to the use of KUKA robots, it has become possible to align the patient towards the beam very precisely. 

BEC has integrated KUKA robot components into the patient positioning system exacure (© Thomas Kästenbauer)

Robot bed with KUKA components

Particle therapy is of particular relevance in brain or spinal cord tumor cases, as surgical procedures are complicated and entail a high degree of risk.

BEC has integrated robotic components to create their robot bed. The robot in question is a ceiling-mounted kinematic system from KUKA. Using this solution, an x-ray imaging system from the company medPhoton can be installed directly on the patient’s bed and move along the bed in a linear fashion. In this way, the imaging system moves with the patient, thereby increasing the geometric precision still further.

At the same time, a camera follows special patterns on the underside of the patient’s bed, enabling the position of the bed to be adjusted with submillimeter precision, despite elasticities. As a result, the geometric chain of errors between the tumor, imaging system and radiation beam can be reduced significantly, thus increasing the precision of the therapy.

By being ceiling-mounted, the robot-based kinematic system by BEC can make optimal use of the treatment room

Optimal use of the treatment room

The demands placed on modern positioning systems go way beyond the mere macro-movement of the patient in front of the radiation source. Ease of use, treatment volume, system speed and compatibility with other systems are becoming increasingly important.

Ceiling-mounted installation of the patient positioning system has enabled BEC to make optimal use of the space in the treatment room and significantly increase treatment volume. A newly developed treatment table has also enabled the positioning of patients weighing up to 300 kilograms – all thanks to KUKA robot technology with its positioning repeatability of ±0.06 millimeters.

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