Who hasn't had blood taken at the doctor's? But what happens to the sample after the blood is taken? This is where analytical laboratories come in. Automation technology is playing an increasingly important role in transporting and distributing the samples – using ready-to-install handling systems from Festo.
After the blood is taken, the first thing to be done in the laboratories is capture the individual data, such as the patient's name or the analyses to be carried out, which are then encoded in a barcode on the sample vial.
The next step is centrifugation, where high-speed rotation is used to separate the blood into solid and liquid components. Only then can the laboratory check the sample for specific antibodies or viruses. To obtain dependable results, precisely defined laboratory processes must be executed in a reproducible, efficient and reliable manner. Automated systems are the ideal solution.
Modular platform for laboratory automation
An innovative laboratory platform from Festo shows what the future of laboratory automation might look like. Its nine modules demonstrate the entire process sequence, from the pre-analysis to the analytical process and then the post-analysis.
This includes the automated handling of individual sample vials that are removed from or added to the sample carrier, the opening and closing of sample vials and the removal and addition of liquids in the nanolitre range. Dosing precision as well as the modularity, flexibility and expandability of the system are important parameters throughout the process sequences. Products from other manufacturers can also be integrated on the platform alongside Festo components. This enables custom solutions to be designed for every application.
Focus on the pipetting process
Blood sample processing is fully automated on the laboratory platform, as demonstrated by the pipetting process. First, a central transport system brings the blood sample to the pipetting module on a sample carrier. There, a highly precise pipette adds a specific amount of liquid blood components from the collection tube to each vial. The vials are then once again transported to the next module in the process by the delivery system on the platform.
Planar surface gantry in use in the laboratory
Loads of up to several hundred grams can be precisely and safely moved using a classic 3D handling system. It consists of an electric planar surface gantry EXCM that covers a maximum working space of 360 x 700 mm for the movements in the XY direction as well as an electric axis EGSK for the vertical Z movement for strokes of up to 100 mm. The system is completed by stepper motors, motor controllers as well as a multi-axis controller, ensuring that the blood sample reliably undergoes all analysis processes.
Festo AG is a global player and an independent family-owned company with its headquarters in Esslingen am Neckar, Germany. The company supplies pneumatic and electrical automation technology to 300,000 customers of factory and process automation in over 200 industries. Our products and services are available in 176 countries. With about 18.700 employees in 61 companies worldwide, Festo achieved a turnover of around €2.64 billion in 2015. Each year around 8 % of this turnover is invested in research and development. In this learning company, 1.5 % of turnover is invested in basic and further training. Yet training services are not only provided for Festo's own staff – Festo Didactic SE also supplies basic and further training programmes in the field of automation technology for customers, students and trainees.