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The megatrends are rapidly changing the landscape of robotics and automation in the laboratory and the life science industry from a technical and commercial perspective.
FREMONT, CA: Robotics plays an ever-increasing role in life sciences applications. Robots are not only taking on monotonous tasks and streamlining processes in laboratory settings but are also leveraging advances in vision technology to support medical research.
For instance, in the cloning of bacteria, vision technology allows the robot to identify and shift the chosen bacteria into a petri dish. It provides a means of identifying the part of the bacteria colony that must be removed for additional processing and that which can be discarded.
Recognizing the number of specimens being tested on a day-to-day basis and the data collection demands on technicians, robotics provides a more accurate and efficient solution. Robotic systems possess the ability to pipette a 96 well plate in 20 seconds without even making a mistake or the need for a break. This leaves a lot of room for technicians to add value to more complex research tasks.
Robotic automation prevalent in the clinical labs utilizes machine vision to assist in managing medications and biological specimens. Robots that have the vision capabilities can handle glass medical vials and specimen samples that have colored stoppers. Robots can evaluate if biological samples are present and if the needles containing liquid are unbroken.
The on-going innovations in imaging sensor technology are also widening the possibilities for robotic machine vision applications in the life sciences. New image sensor technologies include:
• Ultra-high resolution
• Higher sensitivities for ultra-low-light applications
• Faster frame rates to capture more detail
• Specialized RGB-NIR (near-infrared) color filter array that allows for the separation and discrete analysis of the visible and NIR wavelengths
The vision capabilities of robotic systems will only expand, which means more opportunities for robotic applications.