Festo Technology Engineering Center (TEC) Boston

First engineering centre in the US focused on life sciences

In order to contain rising costs in the healthcare sector, there is a worldwide need for automated systems that support medical research. Fluid handling plays an important role in this. Especially for this purpose, Festo started the Technology Engineering Center in Boston in 2018. Three teams with a total of 20 engineers work daily on both customer-specific systems and catalogue products for fluid handling. Speed, accuracy and modularity are the key words with which system builders can optimise the time-to-market of their equipment.

Life sciences or humanities is a wonderful field in which the health of people is central. Based on scientific research, disease processes are unravelled step by step and a basis is laid for the development of medicines and treatments.

Fluid handling

Fluid handling plays an important role in this type of research. It almost exclusively involves (very) small quantities of liquid that have to be dosed with high accuracy in microtiter plates. The demand for automating dosing systems and thus increasing the performance of research is increasing worldwide. Factors such as 'speed' and 'accuracy' play an important role in this respect.

In order to support the manufacturers of this laboratory equipment in meeting the high demands, Festo launched the Technology Engineering Center. A a location just north of Boston was deliberately chosen. The global centre of life sciences with institutes such as MIT, Harvard and Brown in the immediate vicinity. A large number of manufacturers of laboratory equipment are also located here and many qualified technologists work here.

Modular and customised

The objective of the TEC Boston is twofold:

First, the centre wants to be at the forefront of the development of very fast, highly accurate fluid dispensing products and accessories, based on pneumatic principles. The faster and more accurate, the greater the contribution to reducing healthcare costs. This involves the development of catalogue products that can be relatively quickly assembled in a modular way by system builders into the desired customer-specific solution. Sourced from a single supplier and thus optimally attuned to each other.

In addition, the centre focuses on intensive cooperation with individual customers in order to develop the best automated solutions for fluid handling. Here, too, the aim is to shorten the time-to-market. The cooperation also offers Festo the opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of the latest developments in the end-user market.

The techniques

At the TEC, 20 engineers in three teams (mechanical engineering, embedded and test and application development) work with a fresh view on a new generation of liquid dosing equipment. This makes use of fast-switching (liquid) valves and accurate proportional pressure control, with or without a micro-pump technology developed in-house. By using pneumatic control and the latest Festo motion technology, a contribution is made to reducing subsystem costs and increasing speed and accuracy. What should you think of? For example, filling 384 microplates within fifteen seconds, assuming dosing quantities of 0.5 - 5 µl.

In the past three years, various milestones have already been achieved, including the development of:

With new catalogue products, customer cooperation and an innovative atmosphere in which the leading engineers work, the Festo Technology Engineering Center in Boston has everything to act as a 'full solution provider' for a wide range of fluid handling applications for life sciences.

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