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.
“In fact, we’ve actually created a very small factory", explains Niels Kruize, responsible for business development at Synchron Lab Automation. “Recently, one of our customers made a priceless statement. He said, “This is so beautiful and at the same time so simple, I just don’t understand why it hasn’t been invented before.”
The process running on the machine is used in the agricultural industry for plant breeding. The DNA is extracted from shredded plant material. Components from Festo carry out important functions in all extraction phases. The process begins with a holder which accommodates up to 400 microwell plates – 200 for input and 200 for output.
Festo’s Bert Baas adds: “It’s a perfect example of a combination of industrial and laboratory automation.” The machine’s hardware is subdivided into functions, each of which is designed as simply and efficiently as possible. The small factory is equipped with serial instead of parallel drives. Plates are continuously moved and positioned throughout the pipetting, rinsing and washing stations.
Right from the start, the developers at Synchron received intensive support from Festo. Key Account Manager Bert Baas from Festo explains: “Our automation experts provided support throughout the entire development of the extraction machine. For example, they suggested using the new CPX-E unit to provide genuine added value. They used the unit in this project before it was even available on the market.”
Identifying, transporting, washing and extracting: Festo components perform decisive functions in all phases of the process.
Good team (left to right): Niels Kruize (Synchron), Bert Baas (Festo) and Derk Wilten (Synchron).
Niels Kruize is very pleased that his confidence in the collaboration has been confirmed. “It provides us with tremendous added value. Cooperation is a genuine partnership for both sides. For both companies, this project is a completely new undertaking – and the communication technology is new for us as well. We learn from each other and look to the future, to what the next step could be.” Bert Baas: “We discuss new technologies with Synchron and anticipate the opportunities they offer.”
Synchron has been developing laboratory automation solutions since 1985 and specializes in automated liquid, tube and plate handling. In recent years, Synchron has added the de-novo design and construction of specialized automated platforms for the Agbio industry to its portfolio. These include SeedPicking, Germination, SeedHealth testing and DNA purification systems. Synchron's software platform Experimate™ offers a user-friendly interface and controls all systems and connected modules from Synchron - from the LIMS connection to the automated workstation.