What is a Motorized Punch?
A motorized punch adheres to the same basic principles as a manual punch; its purpose is to score or cut around the follicular hair units from the donor zone so that they may be extracted and later transplanted into different areas of the scalp as needed (otherwise known as recipient sites). All motorized punches are handheld, but they are tethered to a motor control unit via a cable. The part held in the hand is similar to a Dremel tool. Both motorized and manually-powered punch devices are standard procedure for FUE surgery. Each has their own set of pros and cons, though neither is “correct” per say.
Motorized Punch - Blunt vs. Sharp
As with manual punches, the motorized versions may utilize either a sharpened or blunted tip (with some exceptions). The properties of each type of tip are the same as with manual punches – a sharp tip cuts into the scalp more easily, but has a higher follicular unit transection rate than a blunt tip. It is not uncommon for the physician to change between the two tips during a hair transplant, or even to switch from a manual punch device to a motorized one.
Is There Only One Type of Motorized Punch?
No, but there are far too many to list here. In general, the least expensive models come from China. The two most common motorized punches for follicular unit extraction (FUE) procedures at the time of this writing are:
- The Powered SafeScribe – developed by Dr. Jim Harris of the Hair Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado (USA), this brand of motorized punch is arguably the most popular to date. It is a motorized version of the original SafeScribe manual punch system (also developed by Dr. Harris). Both the manual and motorized versions of the SafeScribe system may be equipped with a sharp or blunt tip at the physician’s discretion but the use of the blunt tip punch was popularized by Dr. Harris and the Safe System.
- The Powered Cole Isolation Device (PCID) – the PCID was developed by Dr. John Cole of Alpharetta, Georgia (southern USA). The PCID includes a touchscreen that gives the operator a more comprehensive degree of control. Unlike the SafeScribe system, PCID punches are always sharp, never blunt. In fact, Dr. Cole claims they are the sharpest punches for FUE in the world but this has not been independently verified.
What are the Advantages of a Motorized Punch?
A motorized punch has two distinct advantages over manual devices.
- Less fatigue – a hair transplant is a lengthy process where follicular units must either by dissected from a donor strip, or extracted one by one directly off of the scalp itself. This is very taxing on the physician, and often requires multiple breaks. Motorized punches, therefore, are excellent at preserving a physician’s stamina and preventing hand fatigue.
- Quicker procedures – taking fewer breaks means that the procedure can be performed faster. A punch with a motor also allows the physician to cover a greater area of the scalp in a shorter duration, further hastening the procedure.
What are the Disadvantages of a Motorized Punch?
- Reduced feedback – some hair doctors claim that a manual punch allows them to innately sense how deeply they are cutting into the scalp based on the amount of resistance that they can feel from the tissue as they cut. A punch with a motor may not allow this same level of sensitivity (though some doctors claim to regain a high level of touch sensitivity with practice).
- Tip replacement – it is generally easier to feel when a tip has become dull with a manual punch.
- Less control – some physicians claim that a manual punch allows for finer, more dexterous manipulations although some claim that this is a marketing position only.
Robotic Motorized Punch
Motorized punch system such as the Neograft and the SmartGraft are not robotic, but rather no different than a dental tool system. ARTAS, on the other hand, is an actual robot with a motorized punch that does the work on its own using advanced algorithms to figure out what to do (under the supervision of a human doctor, of course).