College of American Pathologists
Printable Version

  New fixes, configurations in automation solutions


CAP Today




February 2012
Feature Story

Brendan Dabkowski

Makers of laboratory automation systems and workcells have updated their products since September, when CAP TODAY last reported on them. Here and in the accompanying product guide are the latest lab automation solutions.

Interest in tube-specific automation continues to grow, says m-u-t America’s area manager Niels Hägglund. “Customers are paying more attention to the individual steps a tube takes to make its way through a lab and seeing where the smallest amount of input can yield the greatest increase in throughput or decrease in cost,” he says. That’s one reason why m-u-t will soon release for its MK2 bulk-to-bulk sorter a color-cap system to help track sample tubes. The system has a camera that simultaneously identifies cap color and measures the tube profile.

m-u-t, in December, released new firmware for its MK2 bulk-to-bulk and MK3 bulk-to-rack sorters. The firmware automatically recognizes increases and decreases in the number of tubes being processed and adjusts sorter speeds to minimize jamming. The company will release later this year an upgraded version of its m-u-t Link middleware, which will make it possible to connect up to four sorters with one laboratory information system interface.

Aim Lab Automation Technologies business manager Ralph Donaldson says he sees a growing demand for smaller, more affordable benchtop automation systems that make automation accessible to a wider range of laboratories. With that in mind, his company will soon introduce the PathFinder 350A Archiver, an automated benchtop system that sorts, caps, and archives up to 350 sample tubes per hour. Donaldson says he has seen new applications open up for the PathFinder 350A Archiver in areas of the laboratory where there is a need for long-term sample storage, such as in virology and serology. As a result, the company developed a high-density automation rack that stores 128 samples. Aim Lab will offer different versions of the 350A Archiver, including a high-capacity system for long-term sample storage and managing samples sent to other labs for further testing.

New to the product guide this year are Sarstedt’s High Speed Sorter 1625 and the DC/RC 900 Flex automation solutions. Both are small, modular systems to which users can easily add components, says company vice president and general manager Peter Rumswinkel. Sarstedt last year enhanced its PVS 1625 modular lab automation system with a screw-cap recapper module, which places screw caps on compatible aliquot tubes. Also introduced last year was the Bulk Loader 2000, a standalone unit that accessions and sorts up to 2,000 capped tubes per hour into bins that staff can unload without stopping the system.

Labotix continues to focus on open-architecture automation solutions and recently released its standalone Specimen Processing System (SPS), says vice president of sales Peter Manes, who calls it “extremely flexible in its capabilities.” Manes says the SPS can be placed remotely at draw stations or medical clinics, where it processes specimens and places them in destination racks to be transported to the main lab for testing. The SPS connects with the company’s track system, where it not only processes specimens but also acts as a high-speed loader to the track. Labotix will release later this year a new software system that Manes says will allow customers to track specimens remotely rather than from receipt in the lab.

Sysmex America’s Lavender Top Management/Intelligent automation solution, available for more than three years, allows hands-free lavender top tube sample management throughout the preanalytical, analytical, and postanalytical phases, and can analyze 90 percent of tests compatible with EDTA samples, says senior product manager of automation solutions Nilam Patel, MT(ASCP)SH.

Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics last year added analyzer connectivity options to its VersaCell automation system. Software development with an eye on improving specimen process management continues. The next software releases will include customer-requested features that allow “dynamic patient specimen tracking, flexibility in specimen routing based on test priority, remote system monitoring capabilities, and easy download of control results for peer-to-peer review,” says Dave Hickey, CEO of the company’s chemistry, immunoassay, automation, and informatics business unit.

To handle outreach volumes, Beckman Coulter has added to its Power Processor sample handling system a “dynamic inlet” that allows samples to be loaded onto the system according to how they should be processed on the line: “stat, routine, centrifuge bypass, or map to storage,” says senior product manager of clinical automation Mike Hoang.

The Power Processor connects with the company’s AU680 and AU5800 chemistry analyzers, enabling hands-free real-time analysis of reagent and analyzer availability to optimize sample routing and turnaround time.

Finally, Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics continues to offer its enGen laboratory automation system, which allows labs to standardize processes in clinical chemistry or immunoassay testing, or both, says Colin Hill, the company’s worldwide director of systems and automation marketing. Later this year, Ortho will launch its enGen CoreCell reduced-complexity automation configurations, which focus specifically on result security and the reduction of sample handling.

CAP TODAY’s guide to laboratory automation systems and workcells includes products from the aforementioned companies and from Abbott Diagnostics, Roche Diagnostics, and Yaskawa America. Companies supplied the information listed. Readers interested in a particular system should confirm that it has the stated capabilities and features.

Brendan Dabkowski is CAP TODAY assoc-iate editor.

Related Links Related Links