CORONATEST - MITSUBISHI ROBOT REMOVES BOTTLE NECK

With a simple and creative process, Statens Serum Institut can now eliminate bottlenecks in their testing of blood samples and avoid tedious, manual work.
With a quick movement, the white robotic arm picks up a flimsy test tube with a blood sample and elegantly spins the tube around in front of a bar code reader. With great precision, the robot places the small glass in a holder, after which it pulls off the glass's red plastic cap, which is thrown into a collector. The robot then places the open glass in a rack in a position which is now strictly coordinated with the bar code on the glass. This is done in just 8 seconds. 1400 samples are therefore handled in less than 3 ½ hours.
 
"The preparation of the blood samples previously had to be done manually, and it was a tiring and trivial job, where it could sometimes be a lot of trouble to get the plastic caps off the test tubes," says Thomas Andreasen, owner of Andreasen Robotics ApS and the man behind the new robotic solution. "Now the capacity is increased dramatically, the risk of error is reduced and the manual process becomes redundant."
 
For the uninitiated, the process is not only extremely precise, but also very fast. The reading of the barcode, the removal of the cap and the placement in the black rack are very smooth and in a moment, and yet the Mitsubishi robot does not drive with the accelerator down at all.
 
- I think it only runs at a third of the maximum speed, but that is plenty compared to the rest of the process at Statens Serum Institut. At the same time, we must be sure that it does not create inappropriate vibrations in the specially built cabinet, and there is none of that now," explains Thomas Andreasen.
 

COMPLICATED PROCESS IN A STRUGGLE WITH TIME

When a virus first turns into an epidemic and then a pandemic, many decisions have to be made in a very short time. It quickly became clear that the testing capacity at, among others, the Statens Serum Institut had to be increased, and a donation from the Novo Nordisk Foundation made it possible to optimize several stages of the procedure. Out of several possible sub-suppliers, the choice fell on Andreasen Robotics as developer of a solution for preparing test glasses.
 
Thomas Andreasen says: − It was a big challenge to develop a robot solution for a complicated process, especially because it had to be done under great time pressure. Every day counts when a pandemic is raging, and we managed to develop and manufacture a fully functioning solution in 5-6 weeks, which in this industry is very fast. One of the reasons we succeeded was our choice of a standard robot from Mitsubishi.
 
Standard does not mean basic in this case. On the contrary, it means great reliability, very long service intervals and rock-stable operation 24/7/365. In Andreasen's words, the Mitsubishi robot runs in circles around alternative brands, and therefore a Mitsubishi robot was the obvious choice. It became a so-called SCARA robot, formally called RH-3FRH5515-D. Behind the long designation hides a workhorse that is now speeding up a central test procedure at the Statens Serum Institut.
 

THE PERFECT MATCH FOR THE TASK IN DENMARK

Thomas Andreasen has over 20 years of experience with the development and operation of advanced solutions primarily for the pharmaceutical industry. He explains that the robot for the Statens Serum Institut had to be developed from scratch as a unique solution, because the alternatives would not be the right match for the task:
 
- You can use existing solutions for this type of process, but in terms of size and capacity they would either be too small or too large. At one end, we have solutions the size of a desktop printer, which are not reliable enough at all. At the other end of the spectrum are huge machines that almost require a rebuild to find space. Therefore, here we had to invent the solution ourselves to achieve the right fit.
 
The Scararobot is mounted and encased in a cabinet that Thomas Andreasen has had manufactured by a machine shop, with which he has a permanent partnership. Outside the cabinet is a Mitsubishi control panel and an emergency stop, but in operation the robot stops by itself when samples need to be changed.
 
"A robot solution must be enclosed during operation, but here we have replaced the door in the cabinet with a safety light grid that reacts and stops the robot immediately if as little as a little finger breaks through the sensor beams," explains Thomas Andreasen and adds: "It has the extra advantage that the operators can simply reach into the cabinet when they need to add new blood samples and take out the sorted blood samples for further analysis. They do not have to switch off the robot or open a safety gate, but simply reach in through the sensors.”
 

A HUGE TOOLBOX FOR THE DEVELOPERS

Hans Følsgaard A/S in Køge has supplied the Mitsubishi Electric scararobot and the control panel to Andreasen Robotics. Here, technical manager Carsten Olesen can only nod in recognition to Thomas Andreasen's description of why this type of robot has been among the favorites in manufacturing companies for more than three decades.
 
The servo control and arm construction are the secret behind the very precise and extremely fast operation that the robots offer. Andreasen Robotics has reduced the speed to a third of the maximum and turned the acceleration down to half to ensure maximum safety and gentle handling of the precious test tubes, and yet the solution is plenty fast for the purpose, says Olesen.
 
In addition, the technical manager emphasizes that the final solution can only fulfill its full potential if skilled developers know how to exploit the possibilities hidden in the products. To ensure that, they get a huge toolbox as standard.
 
Carsten Olesen from Følsgaard: − It is something that can significantly shorten the development time if the developers can select exactly the control options they need from the start. And if, in addition, they get a wide range of building blocks' for the interface on the operator panel as standard, they can more easily develop a user-friendly, functional functionality that helps to eliminate errors, because the operation can be done quickly and intuitively. This is also the case with this solution, where Thomas Andreasen has chosen a Mitsubishi Electric operator panel from the GOT2000 series.
 

NOTICES AND WARNINGS

The innovative robotic solution has now been tested and installed at the Statens Serum Institut, where it will help further speed up the amount of analyzes in connection with coronavirus/COVID-19. Thomas Andreasen, owner and founder of Andreasen Robotics emphasizes, however, that the solution as such is not reserved for the current situation.
 
The robotic solution eliminates a bottleneck and reduces the need for manual work in general in connection with analyzes of blood samples, and it will therefore also be in operation in the future, now that the worst part of the pandemic seems to have subsided, he emphasizes. - In terms of size and capacity, it is adapted to the Statens Serum Institut and is an integral part of their analysis process, whatever needs to be analysed.
 
The robot specialist also adds that this type of solution can very easily be equipped with all kinds of notifications and warnings for relevant users, but that this has not been necessary here. − The robot here is operated by operators and is under supervision, but the solution can easily be expanded so that relevant professionals receive an SMS or an email if the machine encounters challenges or obstacles.
 
For Andreasen Robotics ApS, the task has been a big and exciting challenge, which has given the company with its home address in DTU Science Park in Hørsholm a flying start. Although Thomas Andreasen has many years of experience in the field, the company was only founded in September 2019, and it is therefore quite extraordinary that you can already write such a prestigious assignment on the reference list.
The servo control and arm construction are the secret behind the very precise and extremely fast
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