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US centre will develop medical cobots for non-surgical duties

12 August, 2019

ABB is setting up a research centre in Texas where it will develop collaborative robot (cobot) technologies for non-surgical roles in laboratories and hospitals. Currently, the number of patients that can be treated using high-tech treatments, such as the cancer therapies, is limited by the need for skilled medical experts who spend much of their day doing repetitive, low-value tasks, such as preparing slides and loading centrifuges. Using robots to automate these tasks would allow them to focus on more skilled and productive work, and could help more people to receive treatment by speeding up the testing processes dramatically.

The new healthcare hub is due to open in October at the Texas Medical Center (TMC) innovation campus in Houston. A 20-strong team from ABB Robotics will work in the 500m2 facility, which will include an automation laboratory and robot training facilities. They will collaborate with medical staff, scientists and engineers to develop non-surgical medical robotics systems, including automated laboratory technologies.

Sami Atiya, president of ABB Robotics and Discrete Automation, says that the processes developed in Houston “will speed manual medical laboratory processes, reducing and eliminating bottlenecks in laboratory work and enhancing safety and consistency. This is especially applicable for new high-tech treatments, such as the cancer therapies pioneered at the TMC, which today require manual and time-consuming test processes.”

After analysing a variety of manual medical laboratory processes, ABB estimates that 50% more tests could be carried out every year using automation. Training robots to undertake repetitive tasks will also reduce the risk of workers developing RSI (repetitive strain injury).

ABB’s US research centre will developed robot-based technologies for non-surgical roles in hospitals and labs

According to ABB’s research, the world will need nearly 60,000 non-surgical medical robots by 2025 – almost four times as many as last year. Cobots are well suited to medical facilities because they don’t need safety fences to operate alongside people. They will undertake a range of time-consuming, repetitive activities, including dosing, mixing and pipetting, as well as sterile instrument kitting and centrifuge loading and unloading.

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