Fluid Gas Handling

Trending in Robotics for the Life Sciences (Part 2)

In the first part of this series “6 Trends in Robotics for the Life Sciences,” you learned about three of the six important trends that are current in the design and manufacture of automated robotic devices for the life sciences industry. Here are the remaining trends:


Trend Four: Modular and Multipurpose Instruments

Modular units that perform multiple functions are increasingly in demand. The instruments are attractive to end users because labs can start out small and can subsequently add modules when the  lab needs  additional testing capacity. In general, a typical system comprises sample, reagent, washing, cleaning and waste modules. Life science OEMs often look to optimize and repurpose modules for other instruments because doing so lets OEMs make it through the FDA cycle a lot faster.

Here, suppliers to life science OEMs such as Parker might offer pre-designed subsystems that provide high precision and throughput for moving dispensing heads or micro plates in applications such as mass spectrometry, liquid handling for reagent dispensing, cellular assays plate reformatting or simple pipetting.

An example of more elaborate custom equipment comes from a modular robotic system developed for an instrument manufacturer. The system’s automated load and unload features let it perform multiple experiments. The equipment featured all of the 5-axis mechanics built onto a plate. Should the instrument go down, all the user must do is unbolt four bolts, disconnect the wires, pull the motion system out and put in a new one. This approach lets the unit be up and running again in about 20 minutes. An added benefit to the modular approach is that a system takes up less space.


Trend Five:  Simpler Fluidics in Robotic Analyzers

This trend arose because clinical laboratories and hospitals cannot afford to have an instrument go down when critical samples are involved. Certain robotic systems that used to have 50 needles on the end of a dispensing unit and lots of tubing increasingly use special valve manifolds that eliminate the need for tubing and result in less chance of failure. The manifolds basically minimize the chance for leakage. The devices typically handle anywhere from 4 to 40 valves.

Another way to look at this trend is that manifolds help life science OEMs outsourcing their manufacturing and streamline their operations. For example, the manifolds eliminate work an employee at a test bench must perform to integrate 30 pieces of tubing. The employee might instead spend 1/10 of the labor integrating a manifold. 

Liguid Handler

Image: Liquid Handler 1: Liquid handling in the life sciences can include processes ranging from the manipulation of test compounds, to the addition of biological reagents to form screening assays. To maintain process integrity and avoid sample contamination, typical liquid handlers require multi-axis robots capable of smooth motion and precise positioning.


Trend Six: Changing Development Environments

Development environments have changed significantly over the last 5 to 10 years. For example, robotics has advanced so far that it’s possible to minimize or eliminate the need for human movement. The result is automated medical, pharma and diagnostic equipment that can provide high levels of consistency.

Minature Drive Controller - Parker Hannifin

Image: A miniature drive/controller such as this operates on low voltage (24 to 80 VDC). The drive can run rotary and linear servo and stepper motors.




For more information, see our Parker website and our Diagnostic Market Information

Mike Szesterniak Industrial Market Manager, Life Sciences Parker HannifinArticle contributed by Mike Szesterniak, Industry Market Manager – Life Sciences, Parker Hannifin


Other articles you may find of interest:

Macro Motion Control and Drive Solutions Meet Demands of Offshore

Meeting the Biocompatibility Challenge in Respiratory Device Designs

More Trends in Industrial Automation: FieldBus-based Pneumatic and Piezo-actuated Valve Technologies

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