Hospital Lab Analysis Robot
Copenhagen University Hospital in Gentofte, Denmark, wanted to explore how collaborative robots could be a cost-efficient solution automating the manual sorting of blood samples for four different pathways for further analysis. The robot application had to be placed in a space constrained area in the lab where larger, automated bulk loaders were not an option.
The hospital lab wanted technicians to be able to interact with the robot and easily intervene if the handling process needed human interference. Facing a 20% increase in the amount of blood samples arriving at the lab, management also sought to uphold the lab’s target of having 90% of all blood samples analyzed within the hour without having to add additional staff.
Universal Robots’ collaborative robot arms can operate un-fenced right alongside people – a radical shift away from traditional industrial robots that stay bolted down in safety enclosures. Their interactive design makes it easy to set them up for a new task and their built-in safety system enables the UR robot arm to automatically stop operating if it encounters objects or people in its route. These features were critical to the Copenhagen lab:
“All the blood samples arrive on a conveyor in a corner of the lab with no room for erecting safety fencing. We needed an inherently safe, easy-to-use solution that would respond to vision guided programming, quickly pick up, sort, and load the samples into the entry-module for analysis. Universal Robots met those criteria,” says Chief Physician at the Copenhagen University Hospital, Steen Stender, who now has implemented two UR5 robots.
The first UR robot picks up a sample and places it in a barcode scanner. A vision camera photographs the color of the screw cap and the robot is guided to place the sample in one of four different racks according to color. The second robot picks up the rack samples and places them in machine feeder for centrifugation and analysis. The robots handle approx. 3,000 samples per day, 7-8 tubes per minute.
The robots enabled the lab to uphold its response time with no additional staff despite a 20% increase in the number of blood samples requiring analysis. More than 90% of the results are ready less than one hour after arrival in the lab.
“Our staff enthusiastically embraced these robots. They know each blood sample in the lab not analyzed is a patient waiting. Delivering almost all blood sample results within the hour means that our outpatients save a trip to the hospital as their clinician now get the results back during that same consultation.
Results for samples collected in the morning on in-patients are ready before the clinician’s morning rounds. All samples are treated as emergency samples,” concludes Stender.