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ROBOTICS


Helping hand


for hospital testing labs


Keely Portway looks at how robots are automating procedures in hospital testing laboratories, and how imaging underpins this


T


he Covid-19 pandemic has thrust the world of robotics into public


consciousness. It has been reported in mainstream media that big-name brands – including American retailer, Walmart, and fast-food giant, McDonald’s – have been testing robots as cleaners, cooks and servers while human employees are unable to undertake the same duties because of social distancing. Large warehouses, such as


those operated by Amazon, have embraced robots to improve efficiency over the last few years, and the Covid-19 pandemic has heightened this trend. Now online retailers are looking to increase their use of robots for sorting, shipping and packing applications. In healthcare, the pandemic


has, naturally, put a lot of emphasis on the capacity for testing people – those thought to be infected, as well as healthcare workers and other key workers – to help stop the spread of the virus, and in


testing laboratories robots can very much prove their worth. Tis was particularly evident in a recent installation at Aalborg University Hospital in Denmark. Te establishment is the


largest hospital in the North Jutland region of Denmark, and it receives thousands of blood samples in its laboratory every day from physicians across the region. Tese samples need to be tested and sorted, which can be a time-consuming and monotonous manual process. Last year the hospital installed a robot handling system to automate parts of this work. To provide some context,


before the robot system was installed, the hospital’s laboratory staff would open transport boxes upon arrival, removing the blood samples and sorting them for further analysis. Because of the volume of boxes, some employees were known to suffer from tendon and muscle injuries as a result of the repetitive work. Annebirthe Bo Hansen,


department head at Aalborg 20 IMAGING AND MACHINE VISION EUROPE JUNE/JULY 2020


University Hospital, explained: ‘We wanted to automate this process to ease the burden on our employees. Furthermore, we were looking for a solution to improve monitoring the quality and temperature of the blood samples.’


Automatic for the people One of the companies instrumental in setting up the solution was LT Automation, which designed and implemented the system using two Kuka robots. Anders Kjergaard Madsen,


technical manager and owner of LT Automation, explained: ‘Approximately 3,000 blood samples are delivered to this department each day. Tese blood samples need to be sorted and analysed with different machines. What we have developed is a robotic solution to do this task.’ A conveyor belt now carries


the transport boxes to the robots, shielded by Plexiglas screens. Software developer Intelligent Systems built the


Two robots have been installed at Aalborg University Hospital in Denmark


software that monitors the temperature of the blood samples during transportation. Te process begins as


soon as the boxes enter the laboratory, where a Sick RFID logger detects whether the samples were kept at a constant 21°C during transport. Madsen continued: ‘When the boxes enter the room, the RFID scanner reads out the information… about the temperature and also [records] when it arrives.’


@imveurope | www.imveurope.com


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