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New concepts for the fully automated analytical laboratory Future Becomes Reality

Author / Editor: Kerstin Thurow* / Marc Platthaus

The automation of analytical laboratories nowadays is still in its infancy. At the Center for Life Science Automation of the University of Rostock/Germany, new concepts are developed and executed to develop the laboratory of the future — the fully automated Future Lab.

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The fully automated analytical laboratory of the future – how it could appear.
The fully automated analytical laboratory of the future – how it could appear.
(Source: Universität Rostock)

A typical analytical laboratory located somewhere in Germany: reagent glasses and vessels with different liquids are processed by a team of laboratory technicians. It is weighed, pipetted, shaken, filtered and analyzed. Everything is manual. A factory located somewhere in Germany: Sheets which want to become a car, move on a conveyor belt. Robotic arms come from both sides and screw, paint, weld — until a finished car leaves the belt.

The difference could not be greater. Many industrial branches today are characterized by a very high degree of automation and full complete automation is realized. In contrast, life sciences laboratories are far behind this development. Although pipettors, vortexes, etc., facilitate the current work, a high amount of manual activities still remains. In particular, the transport between different processing stations always require human employment. Is there also a possibility of full automation for analytical laboratories? Can known strategies from the industrial automation simply be applied to analytical processes? Or have new concepts to be developed on the way to fully automated laboratory?