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New modular dispense head optimises liquids handling

12 January 2017

Festo launched a new modular dispense head - the VTOE - that simplifies and speeds up the processing of laboratory samples, while providing a high degree of accuracy.

Diagnostics laboratories are faced with the challenge of managing ever greater volumes of specimens without losing accuracy or flexibility of service. The new VTOE dispense head has been designed in response to this demand, enabling clinical and medical managers to increase the efficiency of their laboratories. 

When used in combination with Festo’s range of planar gantries, modular valves and sensors, the VTOE dispense head provides a bespoke automated solution that delivers high precision and high throughput while reducing costs and process time. In addition, personnel are freed from repetitive tasks and can make better use of their skills, improving efficiency and customer service.

The VTOE dispense head can be configured to facilitate a broad range of applications for precision dispensing of various liquids and filling volumes. Options range from the single-channel VTOE-1-1, which is ideal for the production of dilutions, for admixing nutrient solutions or for dosing reagents, to the eight-channel dispense head VTOE-8-8 which is ideally configured for high volume sample throughput and dosing liquids in microplates. 

Each channel can be individually controlled to assure the greatest possible accuracy and flexibility. Both the single and multiple channel variants are equipped as standard with three dispensing tips offering inside diameters ranging from 0.32 to 1.0mm. The VTOE dispense head therefore enables a multitude of specific dosing volumes as a function of pressure and opening time for maximum flexibility. 

Highly precise, the VTOE has a typical variation coefficient of less than one percent within a range of 10 to 1000µl. The addition of VODA media-isolated solenoid valves, which have a small internal volume that makes them easy to rinse, virtually eliminates the possibility of cross-contamination.

The dispense heads are moved reliably and accurately by Festo’s electrically powered planar surface gantry EXCM. This handling unit has been developed for loads of several hundred grams and quickly and efficiently covers work spaces of up to 360 x 700mm. The electric axis provides the dispense head with strokes of up to 100mm. Stepper motors, a motor controller and a multi-axis controller complete the kinematics. Microplates are moved by means of an integrated gripper. Exact test and measurement results are made possible by the Festo vision system and a large selection of sensors

Festo VTOE dispense heads with manifold duct plates are available in either polycarbonate (PC) or PEEK. The PC option is transparent and allows visual checking of dosages, while the PEEK option is ideal for applications where potentially corrosive or hazardous fluids are being handled.

“Clinical and medical laboratories can significantly increase their efficiency through the use of modern, automated dispensing systems,” says Steve Sands, product manager at Festo. “To ensure that the benefits of its VTOE-based liquids handling solutions are optimised, Festo adopts a collaborative engineering approach that addresses the customer’s specific requirements to find the right system configuration.” 

The company works closely with its customers to develop an initial fluid handling concept, which then leads to the production of a 3D model. Festo then fabricates a prototype system and goes through it in detail with the customer. Finally, the ready-to-install solution is delivered. This approach allows the customer to concentrate on their core business while leaving the engineering and development to Festo. Time-to-market can therefore be significantly reduced.

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