Drug analysis, food control, environmental analysis, drug development or the precise handling of toxic or expensive substances in the laboratory are just some of the application fields for the latest innovation in laboratory automation. The necessary developments were supported by the BMBF in a cooperation project between Axel Semrau and JÜKE Systemtechnik within the framework of the Central Innovation Program for SMEs (ZIM). In this project JÜKE was successful in combining the exact Quantos dosing and weighing technology from Mettler Toledo with the automatic sample preparation via the multidimensional operating CHRONECT® Bionic robot from Axel Semrau to a complete system. This remarkable milestone in the automation of laboratory work has enabled us to break through a so far limited workspace and to automate work steps that previously had to be performed manually.

“This project is very important to us because it is based on our experience and expertise and brings us into a future segment that has good growth forecasts,” explains Heinrich Jürgens, Managing Partner of JÜKE. According to the latest annual report of the industry association Spectaris, growth rates of up to 12% are expected for the analysis and laboratory technology. Mainly market drivers are megatrends such as nutrition, health and the environment. “Against this background, we can assume that the developed system has an excellent future perspective because it offers solutions for precisely these megatrends. In addition, we are working with partners in this technology project who are well-versed in the market and among the major players in the laboratory technology and laboratory automation sector. Beside Axel Semrau for the European market is Trajan Scientific and Medical on our side for the US market. This gives us deeper insights into the industry and leads to a solid understanding of the requirements and wishes of the end customer.” adds Jürgens.

In order to successfully implement an ambitious project like this, experience in analysis technology, laboratory automation and robotics is required. Integrating established technology into an overall system requires good knowledge of single process steps and the overall process. One of the central points is the development of highly accurate and reliable gripping tools for the CHRONECT® Bionic. “Here we can benefit from our many years of experience in precision engineering and our own state-of-the-art production machineries,” Martin Hovestadt pointed out, also Managing Partner of JÜKE. Using a robot in a process that integrates a high-sensitivity scale and interacts with operators requires sophisticated vibration damping, three-dimensional motion control, thorough safety assessment, and a solid housing. “Even with these requirements, we can benefit from our experience in the development and production of sophisticated laboratory technology. Furthermore, we are an experienced system integrator. Therefore our experts are in control of the many interfaces in such a complex system. “, Hovestadt sums up the extensive know-how of the experts at JÜKE.

The complexity of the system becomes really clear in the process, because it is able to dose automatically a precisely defined quantity of powder for further processing with high precision. In the first step, the robot places one of up to 32 powder dosing heads directly into the Quantos powder dosing system. This consists of the dosing module and a scale. Next, CHRONECT Bionic removes the desired sample cup from the automated sample preparation system and places it under the powder dosing head. The required amount of powder is then automatically weighed in a highly precise and reliable manner. The vessel is then returned to the sample preparation system for further processing. Here a safe and efficient liquid handling can be carried out.

This new laboratory system takes both time-consuming and unpleasant steps. The execution takes place exactly and reduces errors in the sample preparation. In addition to the great variety and time savings, this solution is characterized by its safety. All the required substances are contained in the securely closable dosing heads, which reduces the user’s contact with toxic substances to a minimum. Thanks to the innovative dosing and weighing technology, very expensive and / or very toxic substances can be dosed with the utmost precision.

The system was presented in April at the analytica 2018, the largest trade fair for analytics, in Munich. The response to the new automation in the lab environment was huge, so now production has to be prepared faster than planned.