Three Stäubli robots in a fully automated system implemented by system integrator KUM Technic on behalf of Belgian pharmaceutical company Diagenode work toward one goal: the reliable, fast, and error-free production of 70,000 Covid-19 rapid test kits per day.
Diagenode, the Belgian pharmaceutical company, together with the University of Liege, has developed an innovative coronavirus self-test that is in high demand in the Belgian healthcare system. To drive test production in record time, automation specialist KUM Technic built an advanced system that can handle 70,000 self-tests per day using three Stäubli robots, including two FAST pickers.
After successful development, the task became to ramp up large scale test kit production very quickly. The right automation partner, KUM Technic, was found quickly. The company had to not only design a machine capable of filling and closing small tubes containing the active RT-PCR test substance, but it also had to take over as subcontractor to produce 70,000 test tubes per day.
In record time, KUM Technic developed and built a robot cell using three Stäubli robots. The first robot, a FAST picker TP80, picks up the empty tubes and places 20 at a time upright in a rack. The second, a six-axis TX90, places the rack on a linear axis, which goes to automatic filling. After filling, the same robot takes the rack and positions it in front of a third robot, another FAST picker TP80, which places the caps on each tube and screws them tight.
When the tubes are sealed, the TX90 takes the rack with the finished tubes and places it at a transfer point. This robot also functions as “master”, coordinating the machine workflows at a volume of 70,000 tests per day in two shifts, Monday through Saturday. The system is installed in an ISO-8 clean room and filling takes place in the laminar airflow area. The robots themselves are clean room certified according to ISO 5 and are disinfected on a regular basis with 70% isopropanol.
Jonathan de Ceulaer, CEO of KUM Technic, on the advantages of Stäubli robots: “Speed and precision are critical here - a strong argument for the TP80. We need the speed both for the handling of the tubes and the sealing process. The FAST picker places the caps on precisely and screws them down with a defined torque. And the TX90 is flexible enough to meet various tasks with high levels of precision.”
The use of robots means the system offers maximum flexibility. In addition, positive experiences from other challenging pharmaceutical projects and great support from Stäubli favored this selection in KUM Technic’s view.
Stäubli Benelux supported KUM Technic with simulations for determining the optimum robot types and with the development of prototype systems. Jonathan de Ceulaer: “We worked together intensively on this project, with the goal of completing the tasks with the highest level of precision and, of equal importance, in record time.” This goal was achieved: “The first machine prototype was ready in four weeks. The second system was ready for use in a week.”