This post kicks off a series focusing on the drivers of robotics and automation in Life Science and how the market is changing. The series will dig into three megatrends that are transforming when, where, and how automation and robotics are being used across the Life Sciences. Our goal is to maximize your success by keeping you ahead of the curve.
Megatrend #1 – Demographics are causing demand to sky rocket
In vitro diagnostics and pharmaceuticals are two major Life Science market segments driving the use of automation and robotics. In vitro diagnostics are applying the technology inside instruments used in labs performing testing on patient samples. Pharmaceuticals are applying the technology in drug discovery to facilitate handling of mass test repetition to find and validate new treatments.
What are the changing demographics?
In the United States, the 60-plus population uses three to five times the healthcare services provided to younger generations. This population segment is expected to grow by 33% between 2010 and 2020, jumping from 18% to 22% of the total population according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Additionally, this segment will grow to a total of 25% of the population by 2030. This huge shift in U.S. demographics is expected to cause an explosion in the demand for healthcare services.
Data source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
What do demographics have to do with laboratory robotics?
Healthcare cost containment pressure continues to increase and these changing demographics will likely drive up containment pressure exponentially. That pressure takes automation from nice to have to must do. Much as the moving assembly line did for Henry Ford in the automobile industry, laboratory robotics offer the promise of increased efficiencies, improved throughput times and reduced costs.
And as the demand for new drugs to treat the aging Boomer population sky rockets, robotics will help the drug discovery process keep pace through around-the-clock research. Before such automation, scientists were hampered by manual testing. Today’s automated high-throughput screening is empowering scientists with access to an abundant amount of data—with little to no manual interaction.
What specific changes will help meet that increased demand?
The drive for increased speed, throughput, and reliability is fueling a growing trend in laboratory robotics toward the use of servo motors as a key technology. Included in this servo trend is a sub-trend where machine builders are replacing mechanical drive trains with direct drive servo drive trains (both linear and rotary servo motors).
In addition to the raw speed advantage of servo motors, machine builders are realizing improved cycle times as a result of the superior dynamic responsiveness, superior smoothness, improved accuracy, and lower overall maintenance of servo motors.
Article contributed by Brian Handerhan, Business Development Manager for Parker Hannifin Corporation, Electromechanical Division North America, Automation Group.
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