Robotics in life science automation – A Complete Review
In life science laboratories, where specific robots are increasingly used for liquid handling and sample transportation, automation is gaining traction. Robots are critical to realizing the concept of the future laboratory, in which Life Science Automation is integrated into a continuous process, and the need for human involvement is eliminated. This presentation presents an overview of existing technological concepts for laboratory automation and a viewpoint on innovative technologies such as mobile manipulators. The retirement of Baby Boomers will affect healthcare expenditures and society in general. However, in the living sciences, we know this generation will involve the usage of and demand for robotics in clinical, diagnostic, and pharmaceutical laboratories. Therefore, keep reading to understand the complete insight of robotics in life science automation in detail!
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Facts and Figures About Robotics in Life Science Automation
- The first surgical robot, the programmed universal machine for assembly (PUMA), was used in urological surgery in the 1980s. Since the 1980s, there have been numerous advancements, with multiple new robots built to assist with various duties.
- Laboratory robots have been built and used in biological and chemical labs in the medical industry for over 30 years.
- The da Vinci robot is one of the most advanced and frequently used of these breakthroughs, employing a minimally invasive surgery method by putting a tiny 3D camera and minuscule surgical equipment into the patient through small incisions, allowing the physician to operate remotely.
- As seen in the bar graph, the robotic system generates positive cash flow over its service life. It uses a typical $250,000 installation as an illustration.
Significant Benefits of Implying Robotics in Life Sciences
- Cell culture equipment and supplies
- CLIA/clinical automation
- Clinical and pre-clinical diagnostics
- Drug development
- DNA sequencing and genomics
- Products and services from HTS
- Equipment for handling liquids
- Handlers of microplates
- Customized robotics
Pros of Robotics in Life Science Automation
i). Individualized medicine
Personalized medicine is a megatrend that intersects with several significant technological advancements. Personalized medicine, according to Wikipedia, is a “medical concept that promotes the personalization of healthcare—with medical decisions, practices, and products suited to the particular patient.” Depending on the patient’s genetic composition, personalized medicine uses genetic testing to help identify the most appropriate medication.
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ii). Increased Performance
They provide improved smoothness and accuracy while allowing for increased speed, lower maintenance, less downtime, precision performance, and longer overall life. New compact motors, for example, are frequently integrated into centrifuges and instruments requiring a tiny footprint since they may be built straight into the machine.
iii). Aids in Big Data
“Big data” is a part of robotics in life science automation. It refers to collecting and utilizing data sets that are so enormous that they were hard to manage with typical computer and data processing technologies just a few years ago. Big data has also aided in collecting massive amounts of test samples throughout the drug discovery process, providing a proper understanding of how medications would work given a genetic disposition. The number of iterative pieces increases exponentially when combined with a high level of automation in the testing process.
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iv). Enhanced Productivity
If a task is repeated, robots can continue to operate at the same speed and consistency without stopping or being impacted by exhaustion or boredom. Robots are faster, which increases productivity by allowing them to complete the same activities as humans in less time.
Finally, efficiency is increased because robots may take over duties from people, allowing them to be redeployed to other areas of the organization. Robots produce less waste than humans because they utilize materials more efficiently.
v). Error Reduction
One of the most significant advantages of laboratory automation is eliminating errors. Because human error is a substantial concern in any lab setting, automating crucial operations such as pipetting precise amounts of samples and collecting data assures consistent, mistake-free findings. Automation robots can also help because they are programmed with a workflow that reduces discrepancies in all process stages.
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vi). Enhanced Productivity
Labwork processes entail repetitive actions and protocols that might be monotonous and reduce lab employee efficiency. Scientists can focus their resources and time on authoring papers and developing new projects or products by deploying automation robots to perform these monotonous chores. Staff can even program devices to complete tasks while absent, allowing them to attend meetings, speak with colleagues, and concentrate on higher-level priorities without interrupting lab operations.
Automated laboratory robots can do activities ranging from sample labeling to microplate handling. Laboratory scheduling software can automatically arrange lab resources and calculate workforce capacity in the short to long term. The enhanced productivity lab employees may obtain by combining software and robotics is undoubtedly a significant benefit of laboratory automation.
vii). Financial and physical space savings
Another advantage of laboratory automation is cost savings. Aside from lowering costs through excellent production, autonomous robots can also reduce waste since they use more accurately and efficiently.
Furthermore, current lab scheduling software and automation robots can perform various duties while taking up little physical area and efficiently utilizing the given space. While lab automation was once prohibitively expensive, it is now cheaper. Automation solutions are thus a sensible investment even for smaller labs.
viii). Improved Working Conditions
Laboratories follow tight processes to protect their employees, equipment, and test samples from harm. Accidents do, however, occur for a variety of causes.
Accidents can be avoided by utilizing the safety measures of lab automation software. For example, safety limits can be defined, and the software can be programmed to automatically halt the test or experiment if exceeded. According to the US Department of Labor, about 340,000 medical laboratory technicians were employed in 2016 to collect specimens and execute tests on body fluids, tissue, and other samples. A median yearly salary of more than $50,000 equates to more than $17 billion in labor costs. Robotic process automation can free up highly paid technicians to perform value-added jobs like pipetting.
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IX.). Adaptable Laboratory Automation
Laboratory automation software is highly adaptable to meet the needs of a lab. Labs can select modules based on their needs and potentially change them in the future as needs change. Because new upgrades are constantly released, labs can assure that systems are secure and have the most up-to-date features.
As you can see, there are numerous apparent advantages to Life Science Automation. With the falling cost of adoption, most labs, even small ones, may benefit from automated technologies to boost productivity and promote research. Furthermore, with new developments for automated systems always being produced, they will soon be a typical feature in all labs globally.
Cons of Robotics in Life Science Automation
i). Upfront Costs
Although the initial expenses of robots are high, they save money over time by eliminating waste, increasing productivity, and decreasing dependency on people (who require a salary).
It is projected that laboratory robotics will increase, and advancements will be produced to answer various needs, expanding laboratory robotics’ capabilities.
ii). Job Loss Prospects
One of the most severe worries about introducing robotic life sciences automation is the impact on workers’ jobs. If a robot can perform faster and more constantly, humans may be rendered obsolete. While these concerns are understandable, they are not entirely correct. The same could be said of the early years of the industrial revolution, and as history has shown, humans have continued to play an important role.
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iii). Costs of the Initial Investment
This is often the most significant barrier determining whether a company will invest in robotic Life Science Automation now or later. When contemplating the installation of this technology, a complete business case must be developed. The returns can be significant, and they frequently occur in a short period. However, the cash flow must be sustainable in the meantime, and the company’s stability is not worth the risk if the returns are only modest.
iv). Hiring Skilled Personnel
Over the last decade, firms have found it more challenging to find skilled workers to fill specialized tasks in their operations. The addition of automation adds another layer to the puzzle, as the robots require programming and understanding of how to work. This creates additional chances for existing personnel to be taught and broaden their skill set. An automation business can help with the initial installation and setup; with the correct experience, employees may learn and adapt to handle the robots in the long run.
In clinical labs, robotic automation uses machine vision to help manage drugs and biological specimens. Vision-capable robots can handle glass medical vials and specimen samples with colored stoppers. Robots can detect biological samples and determine if needles containing liquid are intact. It is needless to say Robotics in Life science automation is increasing rapidly. Therefore, keeping engaged with the latest technologies is a must to stay ahead of the competitive edge.