Category: Automation and High-Throughput Technologies
Automation has speeded up the production, increased the quality and lowered the costs for a tremendous variety of goods and thus made them affordable for mass usage. The field of laboratory automation is no exception. Modern research and development relying on methods such as high content screenings, could not even be thought of without a high level of automated processes. Nevertheless, factory automation is still the trailblazer in large scale automation and often miles ahead compared to lab automation. There are several good reasons why automation in labs occurs slower than in other branches, however especially analysis labs with rather fixed and inflexible workflows share many similarities with modern factories if interpreted data are understood as the produced output. In contrast to factories, the lab automation solutions mostly need a much higher content of manual work and usually the different devices are not easily transformable into larger and more complex processing lines.
To create a flexible adaptable lab automation solution which covers multiple process steps without human interaction, it is a good start to modularize the individual processes. There are at least three different superordinate processes which can be further subclassified: transport/storage, analysis and manipulation. With a combination of different modules, having these functionalities, a walk away automation line can be set up. Our current project deals with the setup of a device designed to process Petri dishes. We created, therefore, functional modules which fulfil the above mentioned tasks. It is possible to easily exchange every single module by another one with different functionality as well as change the spatial arrangement. The device can be considered as an experiment assembly line which is capable to act as an individual small lab for Petri dish applications.
Christoph Otto– PhD Student, Dresden University of Technology, Dresden, Sachsen, Germany