Laboratory robotics

Laboratory robotics

Laboratory robotics is the act of using robots in biology or chemistry labs. For example, pharmaceutical companies employ robots to move biological or chemical samples around to synthesize novel chemical entities or to test pharmaceutical value of existing chemical matter.

Laboratory processes are suited for robotic automation as the processes are composed of repetitive movements (e.g. pick/place, liquid & solid additions, heating/cooling, mixing, shaking, testing).


Biological Laboratory Robotics

Biological and chemical samples, in either liquid or solid state, are stored in vials, plates or tubes. Often, they need to be frozen and/or sealed to avoid contamination or to retain their biological and/or chemical properties. Specifically, the life science industry has standardized on a plate format, known as the microtiter plate, to store such samples.

The microtiter plate standard was formalized by the [ Society for Biomolecular Screening] in 1996. It typically has 96, 384 or even 1536 sample wells arranged in a 2:3 rectangular matrix. The standard governs well dimensions (e.g. diameter, spacing and depth) as well as plate properties (e.g. dimensions and rigidity).

A number of companies have developed robots to specifically handle SBS microplates. Such robots may be liquid handlers which aspirates or dispenses liquid samples from and to these plates, or "plate movers" which transport them between instruments.

Instrument companies have designed plate readers which can carry out detect specific biological, chemical or physical events in samples stored in these plates. These readers typically use optical and/or computer vision techniques to evaluate the contents of the microtiter plate wells.

Advantages and Disadvantages


* Faster processing (Note automation is not always faster than a human operator)
* Increased repeatability
* Increased productivity
* Improved efficiency
* High reproducibility
* Establish safer working environments
* Reduction in materials wastage due to optimized process variables
* Ability to perform work continuously unaffected by human constraints
* Able to perform work in and around harsh environments.
* Withdraws staff from boring, repetitive tasks


* Single / one off sample assessments are expensive
* Many laboratory techniques have not yet been developed for robotic automation
* Difficult to automate in instances where visual analysis / recognition / comparison is required
* Analysis is limited by available sensory inputs
* Increases job shortages

External links

* [ Argon Lab Systems - Advantages of Laboratory Automation]
* [ Biosero]

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