Their collaboration with ABB has led to the integration of the collaborative robot YuMi within their automated ecosystem. With its compact size, adaptability and precision arms and grippers, YuMi is perfectly aligned with Copan WASP’s mission: to make automation a benchmark and industry norm for microbiology labs, thereby revolutionising analysis processes and providing an even faster and more efficient medical response, to help protect people’s health and well-being.
Copan wanted a highly accurate solution that could automate lab processes not already dealt with by their own WASP® solutions. The aim was to reduce waiting times, deliver reliable results and improve the safety of lab technicians by reducing the risk of them coming into contact with dangerous substances, such as samples at risk of contamination with SARS-CoV-2.
To implement YuMi, a small robot with a high degree of adaptability, directly within the WASP® ecosystem. Its precision arms perfectly replicate human tasks, allowing numerous routine processes within the laboratory to be standardized and automated.
Laboratory analysis with standardized movements, allowing a higher level of precision and a reduced number of errors.
Technology and automation at your service
Founded in 1979 as a small local company in Mantua, Copan (an acronym for “Collection and Preservation for Analysis”) grew over the years to become a major multinational. This is thanks to the countless introductions of innovations in the preanalytical sector, such as transport media for microbiological samples and revolutionary swabs. To maintain high standard levels and exceptional performance, the company has always relied on automation.
In 2008 the company developed COPAN WASP®, a revolutionary system that automates various stages of bacteriological specimen processing: from seeding to incubation, image analysis to colony picking through to gram plate preparations and broth medium inoculation. “Designed to run 24/7, WASP allows labs to optimise their workloads and get analysis results back more promptly” explains Mario Savarese, CEO of Copan WASP. “Time is a key factor in microbiology. The ability to obtain analysis results back in less time allows us to act quicker for the patient”.
The challenges in this field are not just time-limited. Each laboratory is highly individualized and the type of specimen to be analyzed varies from case to case. Over the years, Copan has strongly focused on customer demand to be able to offer a flexible, modular solution that can be tailored to specific requirements, whatever those might be. From there began the search for a trusted partner who could maintain their technological automation theme, whilst allowing for a quick and easy delivery of customisable solutions. The choice fell on ABB and YuMi.
Precision and health protection, how YuMi has revolutionized laboratory life
The collaboration with ABB is part of Copan’s long-running use of robotics, as it looked for a small, flexible, collaborative assistant, capable of perfectly mimicking human movements. “Copan’s vision for its automation line is to continually introduce new functionality and application modules to respond to client needs and maintain our technical market leadership” says Savarese. “With its versatility, precision and ease of use, YuMi has been an indispensable ally in achieving our goal”.
A collaborative robot is no substitution for a lab technician, but it can be an excellent ally when dealing with hazardous samples that could put workers’ health at risk. “Our customers have to analyze everything; sometimes the samples handled by the lab are dangerous, and no matter how carefully the technicians handle them, it is difficult to fully eliminate the risks associated with their physical handling” explains Mario Savarese. “But YuMi, with its mechanical arms and precision grippers, allows us to carry out these actions without the lab technicians coming into contact with the samples, thus protecting their health”. The benefits of implementing YuMi within the WASP system don’t stop there: “Standardization is another key aspect of microbiological analysis” continues the WASP CEO. “In order to be able to compare analysis data from different laboratories, it is important that the samples are all treated in the same way. This level of precision would be unobtainable without the help of an advanced collaborative robot like YuMi”.
A strong partnership to meet the challenges of the future
The COVID-19 pandemic has required non-stop and ever-faster analysis of swabs, the main means of viral diagnosis and screening, challenging microbiology laboratories with unprecedented levels in both the peaks in demand and their volatility. Once again, YuMi is also proving to be a valuable ally, alongside Copan WASP and its new UniVerse system: “Laboratories around the world are working tirelessly to process samples due to this pandemic,” says Mario Savarese. “This is one of those cases where automation plays a vital role, both because it allows you to keep the laboratory actively processing samples 24/7, and because it allows us to protect the health of lab technicians. For this new project, YuMi has also been an indispensable tool for us and its ease of programming has been of great help throughout the research and development phases”.
Copan & ABB are connected by a continual information exchange with one single purpose: to transform and improve the support to people through meaningful use of the latest advances in technology. In one example of this extremely close collaboration, Copan has been looking into types of automation that could expand the potential capabilities with YuMi, and creating prototypes. One of the solutions being explored by Copan is to make YuMi mobile by fitting it with wheels to allow it to be moved around the laboratory and enable it to interface with other automated equipment such as UniVerse that are used in transporting samples between machines.
“Both our employees and customers are very enthusiastic about YuMi; from the engineers who have worked directly on it, through to lab technicians who have been given the space and time to undertake more interesting activities. In short, YuMi has changed the way we manage our most valuable resources: our people, their time and their health”.