Use of laboratory instruments and specimen processing equipment to perform clinical laboratory assays with only minimal involvement of technologist .
Automation in clinical laboratory is a process by which analytical instruments perform many tests with the least involvement of an analyst.
The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) define automation as "The replacement of human manipulative effort and facilities in the performance of a given process by mechanical and instrumental devices that are regulated by feedback of information so that an apparatus is self-monitoring or self adjusting”.
Automation in Clinical Chemistry
M.Sc. Medical Biochemistry
What is Automation
Use of laboratory instruments and specimen processing
equipment to perform clinical laboratory assays with only
minimal involvement of technologist .
Automation in clinical laboratory is a process by which
analytical instruments perform many tests with the least
involvement of an analyst.
The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry
(IUPAC) define automation as "The replacement of human
manipulative effort and facilities in the performance of a given
process by mechanical and instrumental devices that are
regulated by feedback of information so that an apparatus is
self-monitoring or self adjusting”.
Escalation of Demand for test.
Larger work loads :
-Increase in 15 % /Annual
-Doubling- 5 Yrs.
How to handle ?
Increase in Staff
Improvement in Methods
Use of Automation.
Shortage of trained technicians- Work simplification
Manual- Machine (Various stages of Analytical Procedures)
Fixed Automation-repetitive task by itself
Programmable Automation-Variety of different tasks.
Intelligent Automation-Self monitoring and appropriate
response to changing condition.
Historical Overview: Incremental – over 50 year
Key to success:
Discrete processing step
Concept of total and modular automation
Processing and transport of specimens
Loading in to analyze
Assessing the results
Processes used in Automation
Continuous flow analysis:
By:Leonard skeggs in 1950
• Pioneered device
Throughput: 40-60 specimen/hour
One result /analyte for each specimen
Reaction - Tubing (Flow container & Cuvet)
Specimen reagent mixing – roller pump (Assay Specifics)
Volume control –Different internal diameter of pumping tubes
Mixing – Through Coils.
Minimizing Carryover – Injection of air bubbles into
Temperature control –water bath
Timing reaction –Distance the stream Travelled.
Provision of Protein free filtrate- Dialyzers
Mainstay – for > 20 years
2nd and 3rd - Generation (Multiple test result on
Discrete analysis: (1970)
Each specimen in a batch –
“Separate from every other specimens”
Discrete processing is used by-
Random access Analyzer
1970 –Norman Anderson
Oak Ridge National laboratory-US
What happens :
Discrete aliquots of specimen & Reagent
Discrete chambers in a Rotor
Spinning of rotor
Transfer & mix aliquots specimen/reagent
Cuvet (radially located)
Rotator motion (Move- Cuvet)
Integration computer system
Multiple absorbance reading
Enzyme Activity (Substrate concentration)
Analysis of Multiple specimens for single analyte in
Later: (Selection of Different wave length)
Several analysis in parallels at different wave length
Rotor: - Specimens of several tests at same time.
-Scheduled of appropriate tests
(keyboard entry bar coded label).
Random access analyzer:
Sequential Analysis on Batch of specimens.
(Each specimen different tests.)
Measurement of Variable No. and varieties of
Analytes in each specimen.
(Profiles of Groups of Test)
Tests are defined:
LIS with conjunction with Barcode
Selection of Appropriate Reagent Packs
Absorbance Measurement- Computer Incorporation-
“ Walk away “- Instruments can be left for a brief period.
(Single Technician – can operate more than one analyzer
at a time.)
Most current chemistry and Immunoassay
analyzers are Random access.
Types of Automation
Total Laboratory Automation (TLA).
Early model 1980 Kochi Medical School.
Nankoku,Japan-Dr Mesahide Sasaki.
Samples: Conveyer belts – carriers
Required lab test.
Total Lab Automation:
Large scale -very expensive.
Pre-analytical automation functions.
Aspiration of serum.
De-capping of tubes.
Splitting of specimen
Barcode of aliquot tubes.
Sorting of tubes.
Tube recapping machine
Steps in Analytical Processes
Individual steps – “Unit operations”
Specimen delivery to lab.
Specimen Loading and aspiration.
On – analyzer specimen delivery.
Reagent handling and storage.
Chemical reaction Phase.
Signal processing , data handling and process control.
In most – Sequential.
In some – Combined & Parallel.
(In process of Development)
Zivonovic and Davis –Robotic System.
-Flat headed probe – location of vein.
-Automatic needle withdrawal.
Labeling , Bar-coding ,Optical character
Magnetic stripe, Radio frequency identification.
Touch screen, Optical Mark Reader, Etc.
Bar-coding – Technology of choice.
• Test order
• Electronic Entry
• Generating Unique identity of specimen
• Unique lab accession number
• Till reporting
• Labeling of tubes
• Critical for processing
• Log in procedures
• Technical handling
• Secondary labeling (If needed)
• Major automation of specimen identification
• Bar-coded label
• Specimen container
• Read-Barcode reader
• Identification information (By software)
• Elimination of work list on the system.
• Prevention of mixed-up of tubes placements.
• Analysis of specimen in defined sequences.
• Avoiding tube mix-up –in case of serum transfer
• Auto discrimination
• Operator intervention is less.
• Ensures- integrity of the specimen identity.
Specimen delivery to lab
• Pneumatic tube system
• Electric track vehicles
• Mobile robots
• Human courier
• Batch process
• Specified timings
• Delay in Services
• Specimen loss . Etc..
Pneumatic- Tube system
• Rapid transport
• Point to point services
• Mechanical problem
• Damage of specimen
• Limited carrying capacity
• Cost effective
Electric track vehicle:
• Larger capacity
• No specimen damages
• Larger stations
• ?Rapid specimen transport
• Studies- Establish usefulness
• Batched pick up. etc,
• Cost effective
• Clotting of blood
• Centrifugation (Serum) Time Consuming -
• Secondary tube
Developments- Note worthing
• Use of whole blood
1.Assay system-Analyzer whole blood
• Specimen preparation time-Elimination
Eg. ISE- with in minutes
2.Application of whole blood to dry reagent films.
• Instrumental observation (Quantitative)
Specimen loading and aspiration
Specimen- Serum/ Plasma
-Primary collection tubes
1.Evaporation of Specimens (Cups- 50 % over 4
-Cups-Paraffine film /caps.
2.Thermal /Photo degradation
Temperature labile-Refrigeration loading zone
Photo labile –Semi opaque containers
Areas of specimen holding-
• Circular tray
• Rack/ Series of racks
• Serpentine chain
No Automatic specimen identification
• Loading of Specimens- correct sequence as per loading list
Automatic Specimen Identification- Reposition of Specimens
Loading- Second run (Separate tray)
Provision of Continuous loading.
Ideal/ Desirable features: (STAT Mode)
• New sample insertion at anytime/ all the times.
Ahead of already running sample
• Timely analysis -Emergency samples.
Transmission of Infections Disease
• Common concern
1.Splatter-Acquisilion by Specimen probes
Prevention -Level Sensors
-Restriction of Penetration
-Smother motion control
-Potential for contamination
• Prevention- Closed Container
• Positive –Liquid-Displacement pipette
1. To dispense only aspirates specimen in to
2. To flush out specimen together with diluents.
3. Plastic or glass syringe with plunges (Teflon)
Liquid-(Diluents or reagent)
-Highly reproducible measurement.
Air: Less accuracy (Viscous fluid)
Lipaemia/ Hyper protinemia.
-Selectable- Predetermined volumes
widely used in systems.
Inaccuracy/ Imprecision-Not >1 %(Specimen and Reagent)
Periodic Verification of Accuracy & reproducibility.
Delivery of Specimens- Built -in Conveyor Track or Specimen
”Unintended transfer of a quantity of analyze or
reagent by an analytical system from one reaction
into sub sequent one”
“ Error in analysis”
Protocols to minimize
• Adequate flush to specimen ratio-4: 1 (Wash station
/Sample probe) .
• Choice of sample probe materials .
• Surface conditions
• Flushing internal/ External surface of sample probe.
• Wiping of outside.
• Disposable sample probe tips for the Pipetic Systems
• Stringent requirement- For Immunoassays.
-Additional washes /devices.
-Additional rinsing function
Reagent Handling and Storage
• Liquid reagents-Plastic/glass containers.
• System Packs-No refill
• Mostly single reagent
• Impregnated slides/Strips
• Reagent storage compartment(40- 100 C)
• Stable 2-12 months.
Liquid Reagent system:
• Large volume –Adequate for operation
• Container- Reagent (Test by Test)
• Limited stability- Preparation (fresh)
Non-Liquid Reagent System:
• No/Very little liquid
• Dry systems- Multilayered slides-Reagent emulsions
Multilayered film chip-Reagent impregnation.
-Immobilization in reaction coil or chamber.
-Immobilization of enzymes on membrane –Buffer
- wash solution
• No. of tests
• Expiry Date
• Lot No.
1.Facilitation of inventory management
2.Insertion of reagent container in random sequence.
3.Automatically dispense a particular volume of liquid
• In immunoassay system- Key information –Calibrators.
Open Vs Closed Systems
Open- Reagent from variety of Suppliers
• Ready adaptation
• Less expensive
• Longer open stability
• Reagent –Unique container
• Formats by manufacturer
• Hidden cost advantage
• Avoidance of variability arising from reconstitution of
• Open variable stability short.
Most Immunoassay system -Closed
Pumps (Through tubes)
+ ve displacement syringes devises.
Mixing and reaction chambers
• Peristaltic pumps -Compressing and releasing of reagent tubes.
-Deliver the fluids.
-Determination of the proportion of
reagent to specimen.
• Syringes Devices- Reagent and Specimen common
+ ve displacement.
Reproducible ±1 %
• Washing and Flushing facility.
Chemical Reaction Phase
• Chemical Reaction=Specimen + Reagent
Issues of concern in designing Analyzer.
1.Vessel- Reaction occurs,
-Cuvet- reaction monitored.
2.Timing of reaction
3.Mixing and transport of reactants .
4.Thermal conditioning of fluids.
Types of reaction vessels and cuvet:
• Continuous flow systems- Tube- Flow container
• Discrete Systems
• Each specimen- Separate Physical
- Chemical space
1. Individual (Dispensable/Reusable) Reaction vessels.
2. Stationary reaction chamber
-Avoid carry over
-Superior plastic (Acrylic & polyvinyl chloride)
• Large scale production
• Excellent dimensional tolerance
• Must be transparent in spectral range.
Reusable reaction Vessels
• B &C Synchron
Periodic replacement –Composition
• 1 month- Plastic
• 2 yrs- Std glass
• If Physically Damaged–Pyrex glass
Wash station –Aspiration of reaction mixture
• Detergent –Alkaline
• Repeated Dispension/Aspiration
• Rinsing- Deionizer.
• Drying –Vacuum , Pressurized Air.
Optical Clarity is verified
• Unsatisfacting -Flagging
Economical Increased complexity
Requirement of cleaning liquids
Centaur- Individual cuvet 200-1000 can be loaded.
Dimensions- Manufacturer by instrument surlyn clear plastic.
Timing of Reaction
Rate of Transport-Measurement station
• Timed events of reagent additive or activation.
• Addition of specimen & reagents at timed sequence.
Absorbance at intervals
Timings- Defined by Manufacturer
Mixing of Reactants
• Forceful dispensing
• Magnetic stirring
• Rotating paddle
• Use of ultrasonic energy
Mixing –Difficult to automate.
Thermal Regulation 370 C
• Controlled –Temperature Environment
• Close contract to reaction container
• Efficient heat transfer environment- Reaction
• Air Baths
• Water Baths
• Cooling plate
Signal Processing, Data Handling and
-Control of Data inputs
• Work Station- Integration
Interphasing of individual Analyzer.
• Processing of Analytical Data
• Software (Sophisticated)
1.Command and Phase the electromechanical operations
• Transfer of Solution
• Placement of proper filter
• Regulation of speed of rotation
• Calculation of results
• Increase Reproducibility
3.Acquire, assess, process and store operational data
Communication integrations between analyzer & operator
• Replenish reagents
• Empty waste container
• Warn operating problems
• Status of every specimen
• Exceeding of Linearity
• Sub strata exhaustion
• Absorbance problem
4. Interfacing Facility
5.Computers incorporated into instruments- Special Capability.
QC Calibration curves.
Computer Work station
• Monitoring & Integration
• Accept test order,
• Monitoring of testing process
• Assisting with process quality
• Review and verification of results.
• Display of L J Chart.
• Troubleshoot monitoring
• Auto verification of results.
Questions in our Mind
Increase in our work load ?
Tackling increase work load ?
Quality Result Reporting ?
Error Prevention ?
Complete control ?
Improve TAT ?
Adding new assays ?
Stream lining the processes ?
Improving Services ?
Over coming shortage of trained technicians ?
Single Answer is -Automation
Reduction - variability of results
-Errors of analysis
-Manual- boredom or inattention
Skill fully designed automated instrument
Good analytical methods
Effective QA program
Ten Reasons why Automation Fails to Meet
• Incomplete understanding of current
environment, processes, cost, customer
• Loss in flexibility because of fixed process and
• Unrealistic Expectations of system-Cost
reduction, throughput returns on investment.
• Unplanned and poorly developed “work around”
require to interfere automation with manual
• Unclear expectation s of system functionality.
• Over build and Unnecessarily complicated
• Inadequate technical support
• Credible and realistic impact analysis never
• Hidden costs-Labor, supplies, maintenance
• Failure to optimize current processes before
automation (Never automate a poor process)
“Let us Thank All the Brains
Behind Automation “
For Making Our job
Easy and Pleasurable and
our life Peaceful ……