Lab automation has come a long way since the days of industrial robots, with new advancements increasing efficiency between systems and workers. Peter Harris, HighRes Biosolutions, discusses how far the sector has moved and what the future holds.
The use of automation and robotics in scientific research has been around for quite some time, starting in earnest in the 1950s and progressing from decade to decade since. For many years, it was driven by an increasing focus on high-throughput screening for new small molecule therapies – an application area that was well-suited for the robotic technology available during the period from the late 1970s to the early 2000s. During that period, the robots available for use in laboratory integrations were industrial robots, principally produced for manufacturing environments, with high payloads, forces, and requirements for guarding and safety. As such, they were best suited for repetitive, high-volume activities where a large monolithic installation would work.