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Biotech lab robot manipulates 200,000 cell samples per hour

11 April 2011

A linear motion system is behind the groundbreaking performance of Singer Instruments' biotech laboratory robot for pinning arrays of cells. The RoToR is revolutionising genetic, genome and cancer research by being able to manipulate over 200,000 yeast or bacteria cell samples per hour - an order of magnitude faster than previous lab automation.

RoToR is managed by a compact real-time controller from Baldor called NextMove ESB-2, which controls the three axes of motion that perform its point-to-point pinning action, as well as a sample handling axis, interfacing to the machine's Windows-based graphical user interface, and all the I/O channels required.

Baldor supplied the complete machine control package, comprising NextMove controller with integraln I/O (plus some expansion I/O to handle the large number of sensors and pneumatic actuators on this robot), a linear servo motor and drive, and three integrated stepper motor and drive modules. The controller takes care of all the machine and motion control tasks, under the direction of a Windows user interface, which is interfaced via ActiveX commands.

The movements are point-to-point transfers from source to destination plates along a linear servo motor axis that spans the width of the machine. This axis carries a two-axis stepper motor head that controls the pinning action. The combined X-Y-Z movement can also stir the samples using a helical motion - an action used particularly when manipulating samples to or from liquid wells.

There is also another stepper motor axis that controls the loading mechanism for the pin pads. Other movements, such as the pick up and disposal of pinheads at the start and end of operations, are controlled by simple pneumatic grippers and rotators. A key to the machine's throughput is the use of Singer's novel high-density sample plates and matching plastic pinhead arrays, which allow manipulation of as many as 6,144 cell samples in a single stage.

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