Case Study Automated Microbiology Specimen Processor



Develop an innovative solution to automate microbiology specimen analyses.

In order to perform the microbiology specimen analysis, a medical laboratory company did this manually, which resulted in a particularly long analysis time.

Rotalec was therefore mandated to create an automation solution aimed at designing an automated sample analysis system at all stages, from design to development, including product offerings.

Challenges and Issues

  • Meeting complex requirements | The need for precise timing, large quantities to analyze and the ability to process different sample types requires a sophisticated machine with a unique customized design, from prototype to production.
  • Ensure process accuracy | Specimen analysis involves many interconnected steps from start to finish. Each step is interlinked and must be completed with high accuracy.
  • Reduce human intervention | Automation upstream of specimen processing requires technology that eliminates or minimizes user intervention and allows long periods of time without having to touch the system (walk-away periods).
  • Respect a limited budget | As a small microbiology company, the company’s budget is limited, which requires an innovative solution delivered within strict budget parameters.

Rotalec's solution

The optimal solution is the design of an automated system for the analysis of microbiology specimens.

More specifically, a 22 closed loop servo-axis specimen tester integrating motion control to simplify laboratory automation has been developed, and a motion control audit report to validate the machine has been completed.

  • Consulting, design and supply of recommended components | All aspects of motion control component selection based on the initial design requirements were analyzed. During the consultation with the company and their in-house design engineers, specific products and a motion control architecture meeting specific needs were recommended.
    Components, including linear actuators, precision control points, rotary servomotors, both linear and rotary direct drive motors, associated motion controls and sensors were provided. Motion control was provided by three different controller manufacturers and four different motor suppliers for a total of seven different motion control manufacturers.
    Once the design has been approved, close collaboration continued to ensure the company’s engineers and developers had all the support they needed. Technical support services for motion programming and optimization were also offered.
  • Motion control audit report – Motion control | Following the manufacture of the machine, a motion control audit report, providing validation of original specification requirements supported with key measurement metrics has been completed.

Highlights – Technical

  • Distributed Control Architecture using real-time deterministic and scalable CANopen fieldbus for Motion and I/O.
  • Simplified wiring, as distributed control allowed servo amplifier/controllers to be placed near the motors.
  • Hard stop machine referencing eliminated the complexity, cost, and wiring of reference sensors.
  • Absolute encoders on critical axis eliminated the requirement for machine referencing upon power-up.
  • Products used included precision gearheads, precision linear stages, linear direct drive tubular motors, rotary direct drive rotary motors, and captive leadscrew linear actuators.
  • 22 axis of precision closed loop feedback servo control powered by a single 600-watt 48VDC power supply allowed use anywhere in the world.

Highlights – Capability

  • Completely enclosed design with HEPA filtration to continually circulate clean air.
  • Automatically performed tasks of agitation, de-capping, plating, streaking, re-capping, and barcode application.
  • Ability to identify different types of specimens and automatically process specimens according to the unique protocol linked to that specimen type, such as urine, swabs, etc.
  • Compatible with all caps, trays, and plates from major manufacturers.
  • No requirement for users to manually change any parts when processing different specimen types.
  • Ample room for many plates and specimens.
  • Intuitive touch screen control and optional laboratory information system (LIS) connectivity.
  • Detection systems in place to ensure accuracy, such as liquid is properly retrieved from container and dispensed, barcode is placed on completed specimens, etc.

"Rotalec has been a valued partner who has contributed to the development of a complex autonomous machine with our team of engineers for a medical laboratory in a highly competitive instrumentation market. Work on the project began from the start of the design phase until the acquisition and transfer of the technology to the other engineering group. We have all appreciated Rotalec as a reliable solution partner for all types of motion control needs. They brought us their expertise in design, component sourcing and validation, integration and testing. Many thanks to Rotalec, on my behalf and on behalf of the team." – Sergey Mikhailov, Leader in mechanical design for Innova, Automated microbiological specimen processor


The company now benefits from an ideal solution in order to automate the analysis of microbiology specimens in their medical laboratory, a technological premiere when designing this customized engineered solution.

The proven solution was greatly appreciated by the company, which was able to optimize their precision, reduce human intervention, while meeting various complex requirements. The company has also been able to market and sell its services and technology to a large medical equipment multinational company.

Key benefits of this customized engineered solution

  • Highly reproducible testing ensuring the same precise conditions for each specimen.
  • Eliminates human errors and increase the quality of results through automation.
  • Increased efficiency and productivity allowing a much higher volume of specimens per day with minimal human intervention.
  • Precise measurements and timing.
  • Fast instrument throughput.
  • Long walk-away time, up to one hour without adjustments.
  • Improved traceability with automatic application of barcodes on completed specimens.
  • Initial budgetary objectives were met and moreover, production volumes increased.
  • Components validated both individually and as a system.
  • Machine now has a small energy-efficient footprint..
  • Better allocation of time and resources.

“Rotalec was a professional and competent partner who provided added value throughout the different iterations of the Innova product design. Their team was able to offer components and motion control solutions that helped us meet our functional requirements on a tight budget. Their consulting service helped our internal team to develop a revolutionary motion control platform capable of supporting motion control components from various suppliers and integrating them seamlessly into our system. Rotalec's dedication and accessibility made it easier to overcome various obstacles during the process. I confidently recommend them as a proven supplier and partner." – Wafik Moussa, M.Sc, Ing. Senior Software Engineer – Innova Product

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