Laboratory Automation

Laboratory Automation An Overview

What is Laboratory Automation?

Laboratory Automation is a term which is generally referenced with medical purposes. If we look closely, it is a multi-disciplinary strategy to research, develop, optimize and capitalize on technologies in the laboratory that enable new and improved processes. Laboratory automation professionals are academic, commercial and government researchers, scientists and engineers who conduct research and develop new technologies to increase productivity, elevate experimental data quality, reduce lab process cycle times, or enable experimentation that otherwise would be impossible.

A laboratory automation system consists of robots, conveyor systems, machine vision, and computer hardware and software. Specimen movement and result reporting are based on the identification of specimens using bar coded specimens and bar coded specimen carriers.



The application of technology in today’s laboratories is required to achieve timely progress and remain competitive. Laboratories devoted to activities such as high-throughput screening, combinatorial chemistry, automated clinical and analytical testing, diagnostics, large scale biorepositories, and many others, would not exist without advancements in laboratory automation.

How to Implement Laboratory Automation

The implementation of a laboratory automation system is dependent on the presence of a laboratory information system. An interface between the laboratory information system and the laboratory automation system provides the information required to move the specimen through the laboratory.

The reporting of results is dependent on the laboratory information system or manual input, depending on the type of work cell in which the results are produced. The greatest hurdle to overcome in developing and implementing a laboratory automation system is the integration of systems, including commercial laboratory instrumentation and user-defined work cells.

Classifications

Pre-analytical Modules

Input/Output Module (IOM)

  • Provides common location for sample input and output.
  • Enables rapid input and prioritization of STAT samples.
  • Integrates serum, plasma, whole-blood, and urine sample loading.
  • Manages capped/uncapped and spun/unspun samples.
  • Performs automated sample check-in.
  • Returns problem samples (e.g., misread bar code, missing work order, others) to priority lane for attention.
  • Enables operators to quickly retrieve requested samples.

Rack Input Module (RIM)

  • Allows fast sample loading onto system.
  • Supports high sample throughput.
  • Provides walk-away time.
  • Generates availability of IOM for increased sample output and sorting.

Bulk Input Module (BIM)

  • Permits extended walk-away time.
  • Allows quick (bulk) sample loading onto system without first having to place tubes in racks.
  • Accommodates multiple tube sizes simultaneously – eliminates need to standardize tubes.

Tube Inspection Module (TIM)

  • Reduces pre-analytical errors by verifying that sample type matches tests ordered by comparing work order, bar code, and cap color and confirms if tube is capped or uncapped.
  • When present, must be installed at all entry points on the track: IOM, BIM, RIM.

Centrifugation Module (CM)

  • Supports high-throughput workflow.
  • Prioritizes STAT sample processing.
  • Provides automatic protection against centrifuge imbalance by weighing tubes individually.
  • Supports multiple centrifuge setups with independent operating parameters including wait times, spin times, spin speed, and temperature.

Decapping Module (DM)

  • Automates removal of both screw and pressure plastic caps from sample tubes.
  • Increases productivity by eliminating repetitive tasks.
  • Increases safety by reducing manual operations.
  • Decreases risk of sample contamination by means of individual decapping process.

Sample-Volume Detection Module (SVD)

  • Ensures that each sample’s serum/plasma volume is sufficient for total number of tests required.
  • Must be used with or without gel separator in spun, uncapped samples.
  • Returns samples with insufficient volume to Priority Output lane on the IOM for follow-up action.

Sample Mixer Module

  • Provides online mixing of whole-blood samples in original, capped tube for certain assay preparations.
  • Supports custom settings for the number of times a tube is inverted and the speed of the inversion.

Wide-Belt Buffer Module

  • Provides temporary parking of tubes or empty carriers.
  • Queues samples designated for lower-throughput analyzers on first-in/first-out basis.
  • Holds excess empty carriers off the track during low-volume periods.

Diagnostic Testing Instruments

Automation solution providers Like Siemens offers a comprehensive portfolio of mid- to high-volume analyzers that help optimize track performance using automation-ready designs and the data-rich flow of information to laboratory Automation’s integrated user interface.

Post-analytical Modules

Input/Output Module (IOM)

  • Provides common location for sample input and output.
  • Enables rapid input and prioritization of STAT samples.
  • Integrates serum, plasma, whole-blood, and urine sample loading.
  • Manages capped/uncapped and spun/unspun samples.
  • Performs automated sample check-in.
  • Returns problem samples (e.g., misread bar code, missing work order, others) to priority lane for attention.
  • Enables operators to quickly retrieve requested samples.

Aliquotter Module (AM)

  • Allows the production of multiple secondary tubes (daughter tubes) from a primary sample to be used on off-line analyzers or to be used as send-outs to other departments or external laboratories.
  • Improves operator safety by avoiding manual splitting of the sample.
  • Saves operator time and increases workflow productivity by eliminating manual steps.
  • Avoids sample carryover by utilizing disposable tips.
  • Assigns identical or different sample identifier numbers to aliquots to facilitate continued testing.

Tube Sealer Module (TSM)

  • Applies foil seal to help maintain sample integrity during storage.
  • Reduces exposure to biohazards by decreasing manual handling.
  • Saves operator time by eliminating manual tasks.

Storage Retrieval and Disposal Module (SRM)

  • Increases productivity with automated storage retrieval and disposal.
  • Improves operator safety by reducing manual handling.
  • Automates disposal of samples according to their preset time limit.
  • Reduces time to locate and retrieve samples.
  • Fits workload and space requirements with multiple-size modules.

Desealer Module (DSM)

  • Increases safety by automating tube desealing process.
  • Reduces manual operations for better staff utilization.
  • Supports fully automated reruns, reflexes, and add-on testing requests.

Aliquot Capper Module (ACM)

  • Closes secondary tubes with plastic screw caps to allow transportation to other departments or external labs (send-outs).
  • Reduces manual operations for increased safety, productivity, and better staff utilization.

Rack Output Module (ROM)

  • Allows fast sample unloading from the system.
  • Supports high sample throughput.
  • Works with multiple tube sizes simultaneously—eliminates need to standardize tubes.

High-capacity Waste Module

  • Supports bulk accumulation of disposed samples.
  • Allows longer intervals between biohazard disposal.
  • Increases convenience for better staff utilization.

Flexible Track Design

L-Turn, T-Intersection, and U-Turn Modules

  • Allows solution configurations to meet individual laboratory needs.
  • Offers customized, efficient sample workflow.
  • Provides for space-efficient layouts.
  • Helps minimize renovation costs.

Automation Module Divert Lane

  • Reroutes samples as needed to task-oriented modules.
  • Prevents congestion of samples by bypassing module processing that is not required.

Integrated Data Management

Rules-based informatics to increase productivity and provide consistent quality**

  • Intelligent routing: test prioritization, tube type, sorting, disposal
  • STAT prioritization
  • Reflex testing criteria
  • Integrated QC
  • Add-on test management
  • One-click sample retrieval
  • Autoverification
  • Exception management
  • Instrument status
  • Module status, and more

Laboratory Automation Challenges

The barriers to implementation primarily are proprietary in nature: instrument software and instrument hardware. When the instrument manufacturers realize the necessity for development of electronic and physical integration, the proliferation of laboratory automation systems will occur.

Several opportunities exist for the reduction in laboratory expenses and the development of new positions, such as “robotechnologist,” a staff member who would function in a manner similar to the current laboratory information systems manager.

Know More:

There are various Automation companies who are working in the field of Laboratory Automation.Below are few addresses which provide solution for laboratory automation.

https://www.festo.com/cms/en-in_in/18264.htm

https://www.hitachi-hightech.com/global/product_list/?ld=sms3&md=sms3-1&sd=sms3-1-2

https://www.healthcare.siemens.co.in/laboratory-automation

Here are some links from you tube to explain about Laboratory Automation: