Robot-ready labs

ABB Australia Pty Ltd

Thursday, 08 August, 2019


Robot-ready labs

Robots could take on about 50% more laboratory tests and automate tasks that cause people repetitive strain injury, technology provider ABB said.

ABB is set to introduce collaborative robots to medical laboratories as it opens a new healthcare hub at the Texas Medical Center (TMC) innovation campus in Houston, Texas.

The hub is scheduled to open in October.

The company said its research team would work on the TMC campus with medical staff, scientists and engineers to develop non-surgical medical robotics systems, including logistics and next-generation automated laboratory technologies.

“The next-generation laboratory processes developed in Houston will speed manual medical laboratory processes, reducing and eliminating bottlenecks in laboratory work and enhancing safety and consistency,” ABB’s Robotics and Discrete Automation Business President Sami Atiya said.

“This is especially applicable for new high-tech treatments, such as the cancer therapies pioneered at the Texas Medical Center, which today require manual and time-consuming test processes.”

ABB said that presently, a limiting factor to the number of patients who could be treated was the need for highly skilled medical experts who spent a large part of their day doing repetitive and low-value tasks, such as preparing slides and loading centrifuges. Using robots to automate these tasks would enable medical professionals to focus on more highly skilled and productive work, while helping more people to receive treatment through speeding the testing process.

ABB said it had analysed a wide range of current manual medical laboratory processes and estimated that 50% more tests could be carried out every year using automation, while training robots to undertake repetitive processes would reduce the need for people to do tasks that caused repetitive strain injury (RSI).

The market for non-surgical medical robots was estimated to reach almost 60,000 by 2025, with the market almost quadrupling compared with 2018, ABB said its internal research showed.

ABB said its robots would undertake a range of repetitive, delicate and time-consuming activities including dosing, mixing and pipetting tasks as well as sterile instrument kitting and centrifuge loading and unloading.

A 20-strong team from ABB Robotics would work in the new 5300 square foot (500 m2) TMC research facility, which included an automation laboratory and robot training facilities, as well as meeting spaces for co-developing solutions with innovation partners.

“With this exciting partnership, Texas Medical Center continues to push the boundaries of innovative collaboration with cutting-edge industry partners by establishing TMC as the epicentre for ABB Robotics’ entry into the healthcare space,” TMC President and CEO Bill McKeon said.

“Operating a city within a city that sees 10 million patients on an annual basis, it is essential to prioritise efficiency and precision, and to develop processes that are easily repeatable in nature.”

Image credit: ©ABB

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