To combat this issue, Alexander Berry, Sutrue director
and founder, developed an automated suturing device to
streamline and create a safer suturing process.
“Nine and a half years ago, I watched a documentary
on suturing techniques used during robotic surgery using
forceps and considered there might be another way of
completing the process,” explains Berry.
He immediately began designing a solution that could
nearly eliminate the risk of needlestick injuries.
About six years ago, Berry persuaded a small group of
friends and family to invest a nominal amount of funding to
allow for patent applications, further development of the
design, and eventually a working prototype.
The Sutrue device is the result of years of designing,
prototyping, and testing. Designed as a mechanical stitching
tool for doctors, surgeons, veterinarians, and dentists, the
device contains the needle section of the suture within
an enclosed plastic cartridge to help avoid most injury
3D Printing to the Rescue
Berry’s Sutrue device comes in two handheld versions,
one with a small 26 mm needle and another with a larger 48
mm needle. In the next phase of development, Berry plans
to expand this range to five handheld and two endoscopic
needle sizes for keyhole surgery.
“In doing this we have developed a product we think also
allows doctors and surgeons to close wounds faster and
more accurately, alongside the minimal risk of accidental
injury,” explains Berry. “Because of its ease and simplicity of
use, the device opens up automated general suturing to the
wider medical community.”
Originally, Berry and his team made a few non-functioning
models from various materials lying around to get an idea of
the device shape they wanted. Then, they created a layered
prototype from laser cut mylar.
However, the team eventually started prototyping using
3D printing thanks to a partnership with Dr. Chris Sutcliffe at
“He printed our first few prototypes on an SLM machine
in steel and titanium until we finally found the mechanism
that would allow the device to work consistently and with
sufficient force,” says Berry.
At that point in the prototyping process, Berry had gone
through about 15 different designs, with several thousand
hours spent on alternative configurations to figure out how
to consistently grip the needle.
The design team then switched to a combination of SLM,
SLA, and SLS printed parts from a few different bureaus,
and they used laser cut or chemically etched plates for the
springs. These components were mixed with commercially
sourced gears and shafts, which led to the first working
After seeing firsthand how 3D printing expedited the
prototyping process, Berry decided to purchase his own
SLA 3D printer, the Form 1+ from Formlabs.
Manual surgical suturing is a tedious and time-consuming process. For suturing that
is currently done by hand, there is an
unusually high number of needlestick
injuries – where the used needle pierces
both the protective clothing and skin
of a medical practitioner – that occurs
globally. These injuries have a profound
impact on health systems and clinical
By Kaylie Duffy, Associate Editor
Suturing Device There are currently two versions of the handheld device, one with a 26 mm needle and another with a 48 mm
needle. (All image credit: Sutrue)