With all the promotion last week surrounding the re-launch of Design News’ Mechatronics Zone, I thought it appropriate to highlight a mechatronic application. In this case, it’s a specially designed robot for laboratory use. The mechatronic keys to this robot are its incorporation of a real-time controller, linear servo motor and drive enabling three axes of motion and a Windows GUI.
RoToR is Singer Instruments’ biotech laboratory robot used for pinning arrays of cells in genetic, genome and cancer research. The robot can manipulate more than 200,000 yeast or bacteria cell samples per hour - much faster than previous lab automation robots have been able to achieve.
RoTor robots typically service several laboratories, with users booking short time slots on it for replicating, mating, re-arraying or backing up yeast or bacteria libraries.
RoToR is managed by a compact real-time controller from Baldor called NextMove ESB-2. This module controls the three axes of motion that perform RoToR’s point-to-point pinning action, as well as a sample-handling axis, interfacing to the machine’s Windows-based graphical user interface, and all the I/O channels required.
Baldor provided Singer Instruments with the machine control package, comprising the NextMove controller with its built-in I/O, a linear servo motor and drive, and three integrated stepper motor and drive modules.
The major movements that the machine makes are point-to-point transfers from source to destination plates along a linear servo motor axis that spans the width of the machine. This axis carries a two-axis stepper motor head that controls the pinning action. The combined X-Y-Z movement can also stir the samples using a sophisticated helical motion - an action used particularly when manipulating samples to or from liquid wells. There is also another stepper motor axis that controls the loading mechanism for the pin pads. Other movements, such as the pick-up and disposal of pinheads at the start and end of operations, are controlled by pneumatic grippers and rotators. A key to the machine’s throughput is the use of Singer’s unique high-density sample plates and matching plastic pinhead arrays, which allow manipulation of as many as 6,144 cell samples in a single stage.
A video of the RoToR in action can be seen at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4aYJ73OQLE