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Pepperl+Fuchs: Robotic Lab Automation With RFID Readers

November 9, 2020

The Application

Robotic lab automation is a growing market worldwide. Testing labs handle some of our most precious materials and through automation, minimize the chance of human error.

For example, let’s look at a blood sorting and testing line used in a lab to analyze patient specimens. As one might imagine, keeping track of these blood samples is vital. The last thing a lab would want is to wrongly diagnose a patient.

The Goal

The specimen sorting line connects a series of machines with unique jobs. The machines range from AutoSorters, Centrifuges, Recappers, to Bulk Loaders. All of these machines are connected by an extensive conveyor system. Typically patient samples are carried on the conveyor, from one process to the next, in a small plastic puck.

The lab must ensure each sample will be associated with the correct patients throughout the entire conveyor line process.

The Solution

This is where Pepperl+Fuchs comes in. A small RFID tag is embedded in the base of each plastic puck. The IO-Link RFID system is used to track each blood sample, from start to finish. Because RFID can read through plastic the read heads have no issue successfully reading through the puck. There are also hundreds of miniature photoeyes along this conveyor to tell the system when and where test tubes are present.

With a combination of barcode scanners, photoelectric sensors, and RFID readers the lab can ensure each blood sample will be associated with the correct patient.

The Benefits

The RFID technology allows nearly error-free identification of containers and products. The tags are more rugged than the frequently used barcode labels and therefore have a longer service life. Using IO-Link RFID reduces the cost of a standard RFID solution because it doesn’t require a separate RFID control interface. When using IO-Link RFID, additional IO-Link devices and standard sensors can all be connected to one IO-Link Master.

Key Technical Benefits Bar.jpg

At a Glance

  • RFID can read through a plastic puck
  • Miniature photoeyes track the progress of each sample
  • Doesn’t require a separate RFID control interface

Technical Features

  • Compact housing
  • The read/write distances reach a maximum of six meters
  • No shielded cabling required
  • Easy set-up and connection via IO-Link Master

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