The laboratory of the future is taking shape in Hannover, Germany. Welcome to "smartLAB" –a visionary prototype lab – at the lab technology show LABVOLUTION and the life sciences event BIOTECHNICA. smartLAB is breaking new ground both visually and behind the scenes. 14 companies and institutes from the realms of commerce and research have joined forces to create a fully functional smart lab of the future. The project is being spearheaded by the Institute of Technical Chemistry (TCI) at Leibniz University of Hannover.
It is immediately apparent that smartLAB is not made up of tables and laboratory benches; instead, it features an array of hexagonal, honeycomb-shaped modular workstations, each 90 centimeters high. This saves space and provides a high degree of flexibility for lab set-ups. However, what is truly groundbreaking about smartLAB is the kind of interaction it make possible across various pieces of equipment, thanks to specially developed software. Laboratory 4.0 is fully networked – something which is still fairly uncommon in everyday lab realities. "The smartLAB project is a role model not just for the lab sector in Germany but worldwide," says Dr. Thomas Scheper, head of TCI. "With smartLAB, we have linked up individual components in such a way that every step in the chain can be digitally supported, making things not only simpler but also safer and more reliable."
This visionary smart lab of the future has also impressed politicians. "First of all, the smartLAB project gives a clear indication of the superbly innovative spirit of the research community in the state of Lower Saxony," said Olaf Lies, Lower Saxon Minister for Economic Affairs. "However, the main reason for supporting smartLAB is because it is bringing partners from research and industry together to jointly create networked solutions likely to revolutionize the way in which lab work is done." Funding by the Lower Saxon Ministry for Science and Culture and the Ministry for Economic Affairs, Labor and Transport means that smartLAB can become a permanent showcase within the Deutsche Messe Technology Academy on site at the Hannover Exhibition Center, where it can also be used company presentations and training courses.
This will all happen after LABVOLUTION. "smartLAB was a real crowd-puller at its debut in 2015," said Dr. Andreas Gruchow, member of the Managing Board at Deutsche Messe. "We're convinced that this extraordinary project will once again spark enormous interest. And the sustainable set-up of the project is particularly compelling."
The smart lab of the future consists of the following ingredients: networked devices and equipment, automation and robotics, surfaces that can weigh and measure objects, 3D printers and data glasses that can give instructions and sound alarms as necessary.
The second edition of the special smartLAB display has made significant progress, with the main focus now on interaction and communication. On all three days of the trade fair, smartLAB will offer an exciting program including live demonstrations of applications and presentations. Around the laboratory, smartLAB partners will showcase their products and services at workstations and present their contribution to Laboratory 4.0. Partners include Eppendorf AG, the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation (IPA), Herr M, iTiZZiMO, Köttermann, labfolder, Lorenscheit, LUPYLED, PreSens Precision Sensing, Sartorius, Schmidt + Haensch, TCI, Zühlke Engineering and Deutsche Messe.