Labman Automation is a UK technology company specializing in the design and manufacture of laboratory robotics. The company has developed MultiDose, an automated solid dosing laboratory instrument, choosing the UR3e cobot arm to power the system due to UR’s track record and ease of use. MultiDose can free up to six lab technician hours on an experiment compared to running with manual processes. Lab throughput is also increased after hours as the ‘walk away’ nature of the system enables automated experiments.
The concept for Labman’s MultiDose product came out of addressing a specific customer need. A key customer came to Labman requiring a solution that could automate powder dosing with a greater level of usability than existing solutions, while offering the versatility to integrate the system into larger workflows.
As well as a requirement for a standard benchtop platform, it was clear that a number of laboratory customers wanted Labman to develop a bespoke enclosure that met Class 1 safety cabinet specifications for dispensing active pharmaceutical ingredients.
The MultiDose system requires virtually no training and is very user-friendly and intuitive for laboratory teams. The system is designed to be plug and play, however Labman is also happy to deliver onsite 1-1 training when required. Labman also supports the systems with the aid of a Microsoft HoloLens Augmented Reality headset.
The results have been instant, meeting the needs of the customer for dispensing active pharmaceutical ingredients. The specificity required in this task means an automated solution has had great benefits in terms of offering precision and versatility – letting staff instead get on with more challenging work better suited to their expertise.
Ian Riley, Technical Director, Labman Automation
Having a trusted partner such as Universal Robots helped us shape and finesse the product and ultimately means the MultiDose is the best it can possibly be. The Universal Robots arm works out of the box – we trust it entirely as a solution – and the resulting instrument developed is now being used like any other piece of lab equipment.
“The beauty of this system is it frees up lab technicians, they load their experiments and walk away,” says Rob Hodgson, Instrument Developer Manager, Labman Automation. “The system is intuitive to operate, it just drops in and is ready to use. It also unlocks your laboratory to perform experiments outside normal working hours."
The MultiDose offers capacity for 56 dosing heads with RFID reading and writing from each position; six vial input racks per single run; and six interchangeable fingertips and balance vial adapters. The role of the UR3e here is to transport the vials and trays around the cell.
Being known as the automation firm that companies come to when others find the task too challenging, Labman was up for the task. “We already had experience working with Universal Robots,” says Rob Hodgson, Instrument Developer Manager, Labman Automation, who started looking into integrating the collaborative robot arms with the Mettler Toledo powder dispensing platform. “We thought we could develop a solution better than those available to our customers.”
The MultiDose solution is designed around a collaborative UR3e robot arm from Universal Robots equipped with the UR+ certified Hand-E gripper from Robotiq, which is combined with the Mettler Toledo XPR powder feeder and Labman’s software for efficient, accurate and reproducible dispensing.
A key part of the system required a collaborative robot arm. Labman looked at a number of different cobots, but chose the UR3e because it had already used it in several other applications, including for an Agrichem company and a major cosmetics company. The cobot makes the system highly flexible, which allows multiple users to operate the system and enables easy integration into an established lab process, without compromising safety. “Having a trusted partner such as Universal Robots helped us shape and finesse the product and ultimately means the MultiDose is the best it can possibly be,” says Ian Riley, Technical Director, Labman Automation. “The Universal Robots arm works out of the box – we trust it entirely as a solution – and the resulting instrument developed is now being used like any other piece of lab equipment, helping our customers get the best out of their lab professionals by freeing them up to use their time more effectively.”
“The combination of the Universal Robots cobot arm and the Mettler Toledo powder dosing system has created an automated dosing platform that hasn’t been matched on the UK pharmaceuticals market and has significantly sped up lab experiments too,” says Matthew Smith, MultiDose Project Lead, Labman Automation.
UR+ Products Used: Robotiq’s Hand-E grippers
“The time savings for lab technicians are enormous – up to six hours on an experiment compared to running with manual processes,” says Matthew Smith, MultiDose Project Lead, Labman Automation, adding that the walk-away “lights-out” nature of the system has the added benefit of allowing experiments to be performed automatically out of normal working hours, increasing the throughput of a lab.
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