German China

Automation of Laboratory Processes Efficient Code Reading of Sample Tubes

Editor: MA Alexander Stark

Scanners play an important role in the overall workflow to effectively track samples and thus increase the process reliability of Tecan. The company's customers are, for example, well-known pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, research departments of universities as well as forensic and diagnostic life science laboratories.

Related Vendor

BCL 300 bar code reader
BCL 300 bar code reader
(Source: Leuze)

Maennedorf/Switzerland — Small installation clearances, small module sizes, and fast code reading from a minimum distance — these requirements are always particularly challenging for code readers.

To find the right scanner for the detection of sample tubes, their allocation and traceability tailored to their requirements for a multilane application, was at the same time the job and challenge of Markus Wolf. As a senior systems analyst, he has been developing system concepts for the Swiss manufacturer and solution provider for laboratory instruments Tecan for over 20 years.

Space-Saving Integration in Compact Analyzers

A frequent requirement is the ability to integrate a bar code reader into compact analyzers in a space-saving manner, despite their wide reading field. For Tecan, this was a decisive criterion when selecting the BCL300 bar code reader from Leuze electronic for the new automation platform.

The solution has been customized to the specific needs: This resulted in a unique, pre-configured scanner, specifically tailored to the needs of Tecan, which received a customized model number and thus was subject to change management approval at Leuze electronic. This means that no software or hardware changes can be made without prior customer agreement, which is essential for certified devices in the field of medical technology. As a result, the customer cannot receive any other device but his own and this for many years, if so desired.

Flexible, Complete Single-Source Solution

"It is also beneficial for us that we will be able to receive our own individual bar code reader, including the circuit board, as a complete package from Leuze electronic," according to the systems analyst. Both, the optics system and the circuit board are made by the Leuze Group: The optics module is manufactured by the optical sensors manufacturer Leuze electronic in Owen. The assembled circuit board and its integrated systems built upon the PCBs are from Leuze assembly, a 100 % subsidiary of Leuze electronic. The fact that this package could be purchased from a single source persuaded the systems analyst Markus Wolf.


Multilane — A Challenge

For this specific multilane application from Tecan's Freedeom EVO platform, 6 x 16 lanes must be identified, while 6 x 32 lanes for their Fluent variant. When looking at the projected number of samples, this corresponds to one 96 well-plate for the Freedom EVO platform and two for Fluent.

The samples as well as the position labels must be read quickly and simultaneously by the bar code scanner ("fly-by") and allocated to each other accordingly. There is absolutely no tolerance for errors here. Due to its high depth of field, the BCL 300 bar code reader from Leuze electronic, laser class 2, reads these lanes regardless of the order in which the racks are inserted. Depending on the analyzer, this open platform is placed on a worktable with a stainless steel or an aluminum surface.

By scanning 32 bar codes and identifying them within three seconds only, the new Fluent ID-module works efficiently while avoiding waiting and observation times for the liquid handling station. It is equipped with a status indicator, which immediately signals the user a "pass" or "fail" after loading the tubes.

Customer-Specific Development

In order to ensure completely secure identification of the sample bar codes, the solution offers the geometric analysis of the reflected laser light. With this functionality, the analysis unit of the bar code scanner can precisely determine the horizontal position of the reflex. This allows an exact allocation of the position bar code or the sample bar code.

At the same time, a temporal analysis of the reading gate takes place, so that the temporal detection of the sample code can be traced back to a specific position bar code. I.e.: position bar codes and sample bar codes can be checked against each other and thus a secure allocation to the respective position within the sample rack can be ensured. This is important, because the rule for the automation of analysis processes is: no errors are allowed; especially when it comes to the complete identification and traceability of samples in the laboratory.