Since the onslaught of testing demand during COVID-19, scientific research and diagnostics laboratories are increasingly looking for ways to stay competitive in terms of efficiency, technology, and throughput. The high-stakes of Life Science environments require not only impressive testing volumes, but also the highest standards of accuracy and safety.
Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs), like the Model C2 cart from Quasi Robotics, have emerged to provide labs with a technological edge over the competition. The C2 is a robotic cart that automates the transport of samples and materials within research facilities.
AMR robot applications combine robots and artificial intelligence to address critical Life Science challenges such as human resource utilization, manual error minimization, and rapid adaptation to evolving research demands. In doing so, AMR robots offer a practical solution to common bottlenecks in research processes with a lower upfront investment requirement than many other automation offerings.
This article explores how the introduction of smaller and more agile mobility robots is unlocking new efficiency in lab workflows and empowering researchers to refocus on critical thinking and analysis to enhance overall research output.
What are Autonomous Mobile Robots
An Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) is a specific robot designed to navigate and map their environment autonomously, without human oversight or reliance on pre-defined guides. Instead of following external markers, AMRs rely solely on sophisticated software, sensors, and artificial intelligence (AI) embedded into their hardware processors. These elements work in unison allowing the autonomous robot to visualize its surroundings, avoid unexpected obstacles, and deliver its payloads safely.
AMR Robot Application in Life Sciences
The Life Sciences sector is showing recent preference toward nimble, adaptable, and increasingly mobile types of robotics. Such solutions contrast sharply with traditional automation – in which labs and robotic automation companies alike channeled their resources toward larger machines meant for single, repetitive, high-throughput tasks like pipetting, aliquoting, and batch analysis.
This transition is driven by the need for adaptable robotics that can respond swiftly to the ever-changing demands of modern research environments.
Research Challenges Driving AMR Demand
Modern-day research laboratories are discovering a critical gap in their testing workflows: the inefficient flow of samples and materials between processing workstations.
On the surface, the task of moving specimens and supplies from station to station may seem simple. But this repetitive, time-consuming, and error-prone responsibility is most often added onto research technicians’ already hectic schedules. This results in significant portions of these skilled employees’ time being diverted toward sample transport, as opposed to high-value research analysis.
On-Demand Delivery with Automated Mobile Robots
In combination with ongoing labor shortages, relentless time constraints, and ever-increasing testing demand, Life Science facilities are turning to smaller, more versatile automation robots to address their transport problems. An AMR robot, such as an autonomous cart, can transport samples, supplies, and equipment independently, adapt to dynamic environments and even incorporate Artificial Intelligence (AI) for advanced learning and data processing.
By reducing manual handling, mobile robots lower contamination and invalidation risks for specimens traveling through the stations of a facility workflow. Lab technicians experience greater flexibility within their schedules, allowing their focus and expertise to be directed towards more critical research tasks. The end result is a significant boost in testing throughput and competitive advantage for modern laboratories.
Examples of AMR Robots for Research Settings
To aid with research initiatives, automated mobile robots offer modularity, reliability, autonomous navigation, and seamless integration with existing systems and machines through standardized protocols. Specific robots are emerging as versatile tools, tailored for a range of laboratory functionalities, including:
- Autonomous Robotic Transport Carts: these robot carts navigate complex lab environments, avoiding dynamic obstacles, to complete autonomous robotic delivery of samples, specimens, supplies, materials, and waste.
- Robotic Arms on Mobile Platforms: these systems combine mobility with robotic manipulation, bridging the gap between AMRs and pick and place robots.
- Automated Cleaning and Sterilization Robots: these robots autonomously clean and sanitize workspaces post-experiment, employing ultraviolet light for sterilization and disinfection of lab environments.
- Environment Monitoring Robots: these units traverse controlled environments to autonomously collect data on parameters like temperature, humidity, and contamination levels, maintaining research integrity.
Integrated Lab Automation with Autonomous Robotic Carts
The Model C2 Autonomous Cart, made by trusted robotics developers at Quasi Robotics, exemplifies this shift towards mobility robots in research. To streamline intra-logistic deliveries, C2 robotic carts function 24/7 to provide on-demand material transportation in dynamic laboratory settings.
Powered by a specialized set of Quasi’s proprietary Qai intelligence algorithms, the Model C2 processes real-time data gathered by the delivery cart’s embedded sensors. This extensive analysis enables safe navigation and avoidance of unexpected obstacles without user programming or facility modification. Likewise, it allows for rapid and hassle-free deployment at a much lesser cost than other automation options.
The level and quality of artificial intelligence (AI) embedded into automation solutions like the Model C2 are key to the level of benefit the solution will provide to overall lab operations. With intelligent robotics optimized for the demands of life sciences, Qai enables instant integration with existing facility workflows, providing seamless alignment for interoperation and communication.
This centralized connectivity provides lab managers with comprehensive visibility into big-picture operational oversight, allowing easier optimization of logistics and throughput while minimizing bottlenecks in material flow.
How Automated Mobile Robots Benefit Lab Processes
AMR Automation is enhancing operational efficiencies at a reliability in lab. These autonomous carts not only expedite material transportation but also bring a new level of precision and safety to the handling of sensitive lab materials, with key benefits including:
- Increased Efficiency and Throughput: by rapidly transporting essential research components, autonomous carts reduce idle wait times and enhance the overall pace of research.
- Precision and Reliability: autonomous carts deliver samples precisely to specified waypoints, minimizing human error and ensuring consistent handling of sensitive samples.
- Enhanced Safety: automated delivery robots are equipped to safely transport hazardous materials, thereby reducing the risks associated with human handling.
- Optimized Workflow: integration of robotic carts with lab workflow management systems optimizes material flow for well-organized logistical operations.
- Scalability and Flexibility: as research demands evolve, AMRs can be scaled and reconfigured for changing laboratory needs, offering adaptable solutions to a dynamic research landscape.
The integration of compact, agile robotic solutions, like the Model C2 delivery cart, provides overarching benefits to research facilities that extend beyond mere workflow efficiency.
AMRs enable laboratories to achieve large-scale operational efficiencies, with realizations of ROI at quicker timeframes than ever possible before. Their rapid deployment, ease of integration, and minimal user training requirements provide laboratories with heightened adaptability to the fast-paced evolutions within the Life Sciences sector. Ultimately, these mobile robots combine the most recent technological and artificial intelligence advances to propel laboratories towards a future of innovation and discovery.