On 28 February 2018, 87 visitors and experts from science and industry attended the ELRIG Meeting at Festo in Esslingen. The focus was on intelligent approaches and solutions for laboratory automation in the future, the aim of which is to improve research into medicines.
The event was focused on attracting high-level opinion leaders within the life sciences industry to discuss new and emerging trends in lab automation and their relevance and application within drug discovery. With a diverse and very strategic programme, supported by senior leaders from Astra Zeneca, GSK, Brooks Life Sciences, euRobotics, nICLAS Fraunhofer and Catapult UK, the event certainly attracted the right level of delegate. The main topic discussed was the impact of Industry 4.0 as a whole, as well as a focus on single elements such as IoT, big data and cloud computing. It was fully acknowledged that these technologies can together be considered revolutionary and that they definitely support the idea of a ‘smart lab’.
What will the ‘smart lab’ of the future look like?
Collaborative robotics is definitely at the centre of the physical concept of a smart lab within the discovery space. With chemistry remaining a highly dexterous and complex process, collaborative robotics is seen to hold some key benefits through being able to assist in many of the fundamental tasks for chemists and biologists alike. The main question is the likely level of deployment. The concept of technology being more capable than operational and health and safety legislation restrictions will allow was discussed. The main question that remains is what the gap between the two will be.
In terms of supporting the physical possibilities that the benefits of Industry 4.0 provide, the virtual connection of currently siloed equipment aids the ability to increase utilisation and efficiency when combined with the development of a digital twin to enable remote monitoring, planning and workflow management.
Laboratory automation at Festo
Festo develops components and system solutions for plant manufacturers that have specialised in the automation of laboratory processes. Besides standardised components, Festo develops tailored automation solutions together with its customers. The focus is on handling liquids and samples.