Case Studies / Part Transfer / Liquid Biological Specimens

Motoman Robots Handling and SortingSolution consisting of three Motoman AutoSorter II cells meets or exceeds all project goals and objectives. Based on bar code read of tube labels and direct link with Laboratory Information System data bases, each robot sorts incoming tubes from large 450-position storage trays into a 150-position target tray, one of five drawers containing target racks or a biohazard trash receptacle. Each cell sorts up to 950 tubes per hour and provides 35-45 minutes of walkaway time with no interruption for load/unload. Cell throughput rate is 50 tubes per hour faster than requirement. System communicates with Laboratory Information System data bases directly, improving traceability and eliminating sorting errors.

Project Challenges

  • Provide automated solution to accurately sort tubes according to barcode labels, based on direct link with Laboratory Information System data bases. Required sortation throughput rate is 900 input tubes per hour. Tubes must be sorted to one of 10 targets (categories) and cells must provide continuous operation without interruption for tray and rack loading and unloading.
  • Reduce manual handling of potentially hazardous biological specimens and also reduce direct labor hours dedicated to specimen sorting.
  • Improve traceability and eliminate sorting errors, preventing potentially hazardous specimens from contaminating the end-product.
  • Maintain high equipment availability with minimal staffing and maintenance demand.

Motoman Robotics Solution

Motoman Robotics provided a modular tube sorting solution, including:

  • (3) Motoman AutoSorter II Systems. Each identical cell includes: – Motoman HM700 robot. High-speed, SCARA manipulator provides rapid, reliable specimen handling between input trays, barcode readers and targets. – Fully enclosed workcell protects personnel. – Fail-safe gripper – accommodates specified tube configuration. – Multiple barcode readers for manual/automated scanning of tubes and racks.
  • (3) Tray/Rack Handling Conveyor Systems. Each system: – Infeeds product in 450-position trays and locates trays for unloading. – Queues emptied trays and loaded 150-position trays on separate conveyors on outbound side of system for pickup.
  • Operator-Serviced Target Rack Drawers – Includes five drawers with a total of eight 5 x 6 target racks (240 positions). – Permit operator servicing of target racks without interrupting system operation.
  • PC-based Control System – User-friendly interface. – Integrated data base (Oracle) to manage sort information. – Communicates with Laboratory Information System to obtain specimen data.
  • Cell Safety Equipment – Fully enclosed cell includes fixed panels or interlocked moveable doors on all system access points. – Emergency stop and pause controls accessible from all sides of equipment.

Fixtures/Tooling Details

The robot is equipped with a four-jaw fail-safe tube gripper that handles a range of industry-standard tubes (12-16 mm/0.45"-0.63" dia. and 75-100 mm/2.95"-3.94" H). Includes gripper orientation to address 22-mm (0.87") rack pitch. Tube-present sensor and spring-loaded Z-axis over-travel sensor are included.

Ref: ACS-091

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