In the Life Sciences, a broad spectrum of technologies, services and product are used. Whilst the objectives may differ in the individual sectors, the need for innovation and rapid development is crucial for companies across the whole industry.
Robotic automation is racing ahead
It is an exciting time in engineering automation. Over the past decade, the pace of innovation has accelerated automation and robotics to meet demands from the sector. Global sales volume of industrial robots has tripled and the industrial robotics market is projected to reach USD 30.8 billion by 2027, from 17.68 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of 14.3% during the forecast period .
Optimising liquid handling results
In dispensing or pipetting applications in laboratory automation, it is important to obtain reliable results, which are analysed by calculating the accuracy and precision. To achieve these results, several influencing factors have to be taken into account, from the measuring equipment to external and internal influences.
Ground-breaking molecular diagnostic tests
The recent pandemic taught us that rapid and reliable tests at low cost are key to future prevention and control of transmissible diseases. High throughput testing for many upper respiratory tract pathogens is now possible, using automation technology.
Technologies for a better life
A growing and ageing world population requires more medical diagnostics and therapy. Thanks to advances in medicine, new diseases are being identified and cures are found. And to make reliable diagnoses, samples need to be precisely analysed. Medical technology is used in therapy to enhance and protect human life. The global demand for medical technology and laboratory analytics is therefore growing rapidly. We provide this growth market with our technological expertise for precise, reliable automation of sensitive processes.
Festo Technology Engineering Center (TEC) Boston
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.
5 benefits of pressure-controlled liquid handling
There are different systems available for liquid handling in laboratory automation. Festo favours pressure-controlled dosing systems for liquids because they offer a wide range of impressive benefits.
Easy integration of piezo valves
Extremely energy-saving, silent and without any heat build-up – piezo technology offers many benefits for efficient and precise gas handling in medical technology and laboratory automation. The biggest difference between piezo valves and proportional solenoid valves is the energy consumption, which is up to 95% lower. Up to now, it has not been possible to simply replace proportional solenoid valves since piezo technology needs voltages of up to 310 V and thus specific electronics. Now, however, there are simple solutions for this, which we will be presenting in this article.
Design for manufacturing lab-on-a-chip devices
Mobile in vitro diagnostics is a growing market. The demand for fast and reliable point-of-care tests is steadily increasing. With Festo as a partner, scientists, universities, start-ups, and even established manufacturers can reduce the time-to-market for their lab-on-a-chip systems and get started with mass production straight away. This is made possible through collaborative engineering and a modular system of ready-to-install, pretested subsystems.
Saving lives with the right antibiotic
Until now, it used to take two to four days to find out which antibiotic in which dosage would work to combat a patient's infection. A new diagnostic platform finds the appropriate preparation within 24 hours. Included: dispense heads and gantries from Festo.
Integrated solutions for liquid handling
One of the main topics in laboratory automation is handling extremely small quantities of liquid, from millilitres down to nanolitres. That is why Festo offers compact and perfectly integrated functional units. These standardised components enable system and equipment manufacturers to shorten their development times, and at the same time meet strict quality requirements reliably and efficiently. This makes Festo not just a valuable partner for customers in the healthcare sector, but also in other industry sectors where accurate liquid handling is required, for example in the production of food and cosmetics, in printing and cleaning, or for breeding and incubation processes.
No longer afraid of the dentist
No one enjoys going to the dentist, young children even less so. To help future dentists and dental assistants deal with children during dental treatments, Japanese company tmsuk has developed a humanoid robot that realistically simulates the behaviour of young children during these treatments, including fidgeting, flinching or closing the mouth. The dummy's realistic movements are generated using proportional pressure regulators with piezo technology.
On the hunt for high throughput diagnostics
Global diagnostics companies and laboratories are in a race against time to adapt testing capacity to current demand. Due to the global COVID 19 pandemic, the demand for testing far exceeds the available capacity.
Ideal for developers: Liquid Handling Starter Kit
Pressure-controlled dispensing systems are used wherever precision, throughput and reliability are required. Festo offers developers in laboratory automation a starter kit for dispensing liquids that simplifies and speeds up the initial setup of a new dispensing application.
Repetition accuracy in liquid handling
The need for an external air supply means that space is limited when installing liquid handling systems. Also, the multiple dosing of liquids places very high demands on repetition accuracy. Festo has found solutions to both challenges, which are described in more detail in this article.
Accurate removal of prostate tissue
Medical robots are playing an increasingly important role in medical diagnostics. Semi-automated handling solutions enable precise sampling of suspicious areas in the prostate, delivering more accurate biopsy results and better detection of prostate cancer.
Faster development of sample handling systems
Festo USA has collaborated with PerkinElmer to develop a compact sample handling solution for a global leader in manufacturing medical devices. Thanks to the customer's involvement in the development process at an early stage, the subsystem is easy to integrate into the customer's platform – with standard components from Festo, a PerkinElmer® JANUS G3 workstation and a modified rotary gripper module. This approach resulted in minimal complexity with maximum productivity and process reliability.
40,000 DNA extractions daily
It's great when things run quickly: 20 minutes per extraction process and a new plate every 2.5 minutes – the Dutch company Synchron Lab Automation, in cooperation with Festo, has developed a small automated factory for DNA extraction. As a result, customers in the seed industry can collect DNA from up to 40,000 samples per day.
Mixing & dosing gases – 4 applications, 1 solution
The VEMD is a closed-loop, thermal mass flow controller that precisely supplies inert gases and oxygen at flow rates from 0 to 20 ln/min. Its piezo technology delivers an industry-leading dynamic response and energy efficiency, all at an excellent price/performance ratio. Since no pulse-width modulation signal is required to control the flow rates, the VEMD is quiet during operation. Thanks to its compact installation dimensions, low weight and low energy consumption, it is ideal for use in mobile devices, as the first application example shows.
DNA extraction machine for plant breeding
Dutch company Synchron Lab Automation developed an automated DNA extraction system with very high throughput by working very closely together with Festo. As a result, customers in the seed industry can collect DNA from up to 40,000 samples per day.
Improved quality of life
Around 600 million people worldwide are afflicted with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Mobile oxygen system devices improve the mental and physical ability of patients as well as their quality of life. Japanese company Musashi Medical Laboratory supplies easy-to-operate regulators in smartphone format for these oxygen system devices, thus significantly improving comfort and handling for patients. Compact piezo valves from Festo provide for quiet oxygen supply.
Opening and closing sample vials
The handling of sample vials – in particular opening and closing – is a special challenge in the field of laboratory automation. The goal is to unite high levels of process reliability with minimal complexity. You’ll find out here which factors are important for finding the right solution.
Fully Automated DNA Extraction
In plant breeding, countless DNA samples are examined in the laboratory every day. Breeders face the technical challenge of testing DNA quickly and accurately. An automated machining jig supports the automated laboratory in the preparation of samples for analysis.
Precision in eye surgery
Nowadays, cataract surgery is a routine procedure. This is in part due to the pioneering developments in medical technology from companies such as BYTEC, which produced the “QUBE” to support eye surgeons deliver precise and faultless treatment. Piezo, proportional and fast-switching valves allow the necessary rapid incisions to be made.
Part 1: Precision and accuracy in liquid handling
A key process in laboratory automation is dispensing liquid aliquots, for example using automated liquid handlers. Evaluating the performance of liquid handling systems is important for laboratory technicians as well as for manufacturers of liquid handling technology. The benchmarks for evaluating dispensing performance are precision and accuracy.
Part 2: Precision and accuracy in liquid handling
A key process in laboratory automation is the handling of liquids and samples. The objective performance evaluation and optimisation of automated liquid handling systems is extremely important for laboratory technicians as well as manufacturers of liquid handling technology.
Safe cleaning for the pharmaceutical industry
Wherever work involves using active ingredients, cleanliness is of the highest priority; production equipment has to be thoroughly cleaned every time it is used. And of course this makes the system prone to wear. Unless you use corrosion-resistant, stainless steel components from Festo. They are more resistant. For example in cleaning systems from ROTAN for the pharmaceutical industry.
Solutions for laboratory automation
Small liquid droplets with volumes in the microlitre range are used in many applications today. Areas where these droplets can play a particularly important role include liquid handling in life sciences and pharmaceutical research, diagnostics and microfluidic applications. Two typical techniques for handling liquids are pipetting (a contact technique) and dispensing (a non-contact method).
The laboratory of the future – the SMART lab
As laboratory processes become more complex, automation solutions are essential to ensure the accuracy and consistency of processes and to improve efficiency.
Valves with piezo technology
Certain ceramics have piezoelectric properties, which means that when these ceramics are mechanically deformed, voltage is created in the material. This effect also occurs in the opposite direction: applying voltage to these ceramics leads to their deformation.
System solutions in laboratory automation
It is useful to distinguish between laboratory automation and laboratory robotics. While the former refers to software and hardware technologies and technical adaptations that control instruments without human intervention, the latter refers specifically to the physical handling of samples and their containers.