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Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Packing Sourcer

Robotics in Pharmaceutical Research

'Robot' is a Czech word meaning worker, from the play RUR: Rossums' Universal Robots by the Bohemian writer Karel Capek. The robot has since become an inspiration for science fiction writers and for engineers. Of course the science fiction vision of a robot is a mechanical man, but the reality we see in industry is simply a robotic arm. This is a versatile programmable manipulator, an integration of mechanics, electronics and software, designed interdependently to produce the mechanical equivalent of the computer - an undedicated machine unable to do anything until we program it.

In the pharmaceutical lab it is even less than that definition; the term 'robot' being applied to programmable liquid handlers. Drug development requires the screening of hundreds or thousands of samples and it is in this field that the robot arm is a vital tool. Such an automated screening system is called a 'high-throughput screening' (HTS) system. A typical small HTS system might comprise a number of instruments, for example a liquid handling 'robot', a plate washer, a fluorescence reader and a storage device such as an 'hotel', or perhaps an incubator. The chosen instruments are laid out on a structural bench together with a robot arm which moves the samples from one instrument to another.


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By David N Sands, CEO and Founder of ST Robotics International

David N Sands was educated in London. He founded Sands-Whiteley Research and Development, which concentrated on advanced electronics and industrial automation using mini-computers and later microprocessors. David was a Department of Industry Consultant on microprocessors for many years. In 1982 the first robots were designed and Cyber Robotics, which was later sold to the Bibby Corporation, was formed the same year.

David wrote the first robot software, ROBOFORTH, in 1982 and designed the first robot controller in 1985. In 1989 he formed Sands Technology with Catherine George and ST-Monforte Robotics with Mathew Monforte in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1991. Sands Technology International Inc was formed in 1992 with Mathew Monforte as Vice President.

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