The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA focuses its research and development efforts on organizational and technological tasks in production. It is subdivided into sections working on manufacturing organization, surface technology, automation and process technology for this purpose, with 14 departments in total. Ultimately, its R&D projects seek to identify the potential for automation and rationalization in companies with the aim of creating better, more cost-effective and environmentally friendly production processes and products that bolster competitiveness and secure and improve jobs. At LABVOLUTION 2019, the IPA is presenting a very clear practical example of its work in the form of the prototype lab robot Kevin.
As many laboratory processes run 24/7 but working contracts are generally 9-to-5, till now staff have frequently had to put up with makeshift out-of-hours solutions. This considerable inconvenience was unavoidable, as many processes simply have to be monitored outside normal working hours. Kevin the autonomous robot was conceived to fill precisely this gap in the future, performing tasks such as transporting consumables between different workstations. At the end of the day, Kevin and his follow-on solutions are destined to fully automate laboratory processes without the need to make new investments and get tied up in single-purpose systems. The camera, complete with the requisite Care-O-bot4 image processing, and robotic arm enable Kevin to pick up and deposit microplates without changing the position of the equipment.