Robotics Changing the Lifesciences, and pharmaceutical applications can complete tasks faster than humans. These robots operate in potentially dangerous environments near biological hazards, radioactive contaminants, and toxic chemotherapeutic chemicals. Robotics are used to manufacture and package a range of medical equipment and implants, as well as to prepare prescriptions for mail-order pharmacies or hospitals.
“In research facilities, robots do assay analysis and automate the movement of test tubes. “The process and prices are readily proven with robots because of the large number of samples that need examination and the volume of data collecting necessary,” explains Chetan Kapoor, Chief Executive Officer of Agile Planet Inc. (Austin, Texas) “In pharmaceutical applications, robots are used to combine potentially harmful cancer medications with those connected with radiation.”
How Robotics Changing the Lifesciences Industry;
“Laboratory automation is a booming industry for robots, from drug discovery to pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers to blood sample testing,” says Precise Automation Inc.’s James Shimano (San Jose, California) “I envision more pharmaceutical corporations interested in robots for scientific research.” Shimano believes that robotics has a lot of promise in life science applications. “Consumers do not immediately perceive the Robotics Changing the Lifesciences applications, yet robots contribute to better and less priced drugs. In pharmacies, robots also give drugs.”
Similarly, DENSO Robotics (Long Beach, California) is seeing increased activity in the medical and pharmaceutical sectors. “We are actively engaged in the manufacture of spectacles and a range of other medical products,” says North America Robot Sales Manager Peter Cavallo. “Biological, pharmacological, and chemical testing are expanding fields of robotics.” Sorting syringes with a vision-enabled robot, courtesy FANUC Robotics America Corp. Robots play an important role in liquid handling in the life science and pharmaceutical sectors.”
Cavallo explains how robots can handle a broad range of items that vary often. “Integrators identify and respond to distinct components using tool changers and vision. Vision and tool changer robots are adaptable and can support numerous configurations of goods on the same manufacturing line.”
The Robotics Changing the Lifesciences in conventional sectors, according to Richard Motely, Senior Account Manager at FANUC Robotics America Corp. (Rochester Hills, Michigan), are repeated in the health sciences industry. “In clinical labs, robots are utilized for drug development and research and give comparable advantages as in other sectors. These advantages include improved uniformity, product integrity, record-keeping, and traceability.”
According to Motely, robots help pharmaceutical businesses guard against illegally created and promoted drugs. “Traceability is becoming more important in the pharmaceutical business for product safety and security against counterfeiters. The focus on tracking production from the factory to the point of sale has led pharmaceutical businesses to enhance their usage of robots.”
When an over-the-counter drug is bought, bar code scanners can verify whether the product was lawfully sold, according to Motely. “If a bar code that should have gone to New York shows up in Michigan, the system may identify that goods as fraudulent. This is an intriguing development, especially for packaging applications.”
End-users of Adept Technology Inc. (Pleasanton, California) robots value the use of robotics to combat counterfeit pharmaceutics, according to Rush LaSelle, Adept’s Director of Global Sales and Marketing. “Driven by intellectual property concerns, pharmaceutical and medical device makers are re-shoring or moving to manufacture back to the United States.
Offshoring of pharmaceutical and medical device production is returning, and robots are serving as a vehicle for re-shoring.” According to LaSalle, robots are assisting general industry manufacturing in relocating production back to the United States, while the process is moving more quickly in the medical device and pharmaceutical industries.
Research labs are often housed in cramped conditions. To solve this problem, robot manufacturers are attempting to reduce the size of their product offers. “The tendency is for equipment to be less in size. The equipment takes up a lot of room, and labs are generally small. “I see a tendency toward decreasing or miniaturizing the equipment, or ‘lab on the chip,'” says Dr. Andrew Goldenberg, Ph.D., CEO and President of Engineering Services Inc. (ESI, Toronto Ontario, Canada).
According to Goldenberg, “lab on the chip” devices are minuscule devices that appear like microchips but are engraved with extremely tiny capillaries into which liquid is pumped for biological testing. “The ‘lab on the chip’ consumes much less material while being physically tiny and portable.
“The tiny size allows for more effective use of rare and costly bioassays and enables field experiments,” Goldenberg explains. Miniaturization of equipment, mobility, and decreasing amounts needed are especially critical in labs that execute thousands of tests while minimizing waste, according to Goldenberg.
Integrated robotic systems that use laboratory equipment may achieve outstanding throughput. A biochemical test may be completed in one-tenth of a second per well. In less than a minute, a full 1,536-well microtiter plate may be evaluated. Prescription sorting robot, courtesy Motoman Robotics Inc.
Despite high levels of general unemployment, clinical labs have difficulties attracting new technicians to staff them, according to Craig Rubenstein, Life Science Technology Leader of Yaskawa America Inc.’s Motoman Robotics Division (West Carrollton, Ohio) “The average age of clinical laboratory technologists is in their 50s.
Because these professionals are fast approaching retirement age and few individuals are coming in to replace them, the Robotics Changing the Lifesciences industry is seeing greater usage and acceptance of laboratory robots. Technician work in labs is unappealing since it is done late at night or early in the morning.”
“Technician salary is acceptable, but labs are often housed in windowless basements, which is not an enticing place to work in,” Rubenstein continues. Degree programs for these occupations have dried up and closed due to a steady but constant reduction in the number of persons training in these roles.” Robotics Changing the Lifesciences assist to fill the hole left by a lack of fresh laboratory staff, according to Rubenstein.
In addition to aging technicians, the overall population is aging, according to Rubenstein. “As the population ages, doctors prescribe more clinical testing. Because the need for testing is increasing and the availability of human resources to accomplish the task is decreasing, Robotics Changing the Lifesciences to satisfy that demand.” In summary, the tendency in diagnostic labs is for fewer humans to accomplish more work, with automation assisting in meeting that growing demand.
The primary reasons for end-users to invest in robots are throughput and capacity, not labor removal. Laboratories would rather have scientists analyze data generated by the system than operate the system itself.
1. Robotic Pharmacies
Some hospitals and bigger healthcare clinics use robots to deliver medicine due to the possible risks and enormous numbers. “Robotic pharmacies are quickly spreading in hospitals and clinics. “Several firms serve that market, and interest will only grow,” adds LaSelle. “Retail robots at local pharmacies will be a difficulty. The technology is there, but policy, not technology, will drive the rise of robotic pharmacies.”
Motley shares LaSelle’s perspective. “Robotic pharmacies have been utilized in high-volume environments, such as mail-order pharmacies and hospitals and clinics with a large patient population,” Motley notes. “To make robots appealing to the local pharmacy, the Robotics Changing the Lifesciences sector must develop another layer of cost-reduction for the total system. Someone intelligent could put together a system at a reasonable cost, but for the time being, robots are only used in high-volume pharmacies.”
2. Laboratory Work
According to Agile Planet’s Kapoor, robotics play critical roles in the production and packaging of medical equipment. “Robotics play an active part in the assembly of medical device production. The manufacturing process is highly controlled and requires Food and Drug Administration approval (FDA). Manufacturing firms employ robots to save costs.” In many manufacturers, Robotics Changing the Lifesciences industry.
According to Kapoor, robots play an essential role in surgical operations. “Tele-operated surgical robots are utilized to assist surgeons. Robots are employed in radiation treatment and proton therapy. The objective is to deliver as little radiation as possible in a particular area. Robots are very precise, precisely placing equipment and patients in three-dimensional space.