In the second part of this series, we will continue to profile several types of Lab Automation machines as well as highlight a few product manufacturers for given machines. Be sure to read the first part of this series of Lab Automation Machines here.
What follows is a whirlwind survey of different machines and technologies that span many disciplines in the medical field. These machines meet medical field needs for the speed and accuracy required to tackle the early detection and prevention of many diverse forms of diseases.
Microscopy is the technical field that employs devices called microscopes to study objects that are unable to be observed with the naked eye. Optical Microscopes are the most common type of scope that works by refracting visible light through lenses to magnify the viewing field. These types of microscopes are easy to use and are widely used from middle school classrooms to advanced scientific laboratories. Electron Microscopes are far more advanced and function by sending beams of electrons through the specimen to be magnified. This enables greater magnification because the wavelength of the electron is smaller than the wavelength of visible light. Scanning Probe Microscopes employ an entirely different principle by physically touching/probing the specimen to create an outline or new image of the specimen to be observed.
Some manufacturers of microscopy equipment technologies include Thermo Fisher, Siemens, BD, and Roche. These manufacturers offer several models of advanced microscopy equipment.
Flow Cytometry (FC) is an advanced technology that employs lasers to quickly characterize and analyze specific cells or particles suspended in a solution. In a nutshell, when the lasers impact the particulate, they create a distinct footprint of light signals that can be analyzed by light-sensitive detectors to determine the composition of the cell or particle. The basic technology has existed for decades, but recent advances in computational power and signal analysis technologies have now enabled the creation of more detailed studies of particles and cells. To this end, it has become an indispensable tool that can be used in a diverse field of applications.
Some commercially available flow cytometry equipment is available from BD while Cell Sorters are manufactured by Thermo Fisher, Beckman Coulter, and Bio-Rad among others.
Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS)
Within the field of molecular biology, many exciting and powerful tools and techniques are being rapidly developed. Genomics is an interdisciplinary field within microbiology that was specifically developed to focus on the structure, function, evolution, mapping, and editing of genomes. Within this highly technical field, massively parallel or deep sequencing are techniques that describe DNA sequencing technologies that have revolutionized genomic research. These techniques comprise what is referred to as Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) techniques. Essentially, these NGS machines can quickly sequence entire genomes from nucleic acids such as RNA or DNA genetic source material.
A few manufacturers of equipment that can perform NGS techniques are manufactured by BD while many Cell Sorters are manufactured by Illumina, 10X Genomics, Thermo-Fisher, Roche, and Qiagan.
Centrifuges are devices that physically spin vials of fluids in suspension at rapid speeds in order to take advantage of large centrifugal forces generated during the spin cycle. The radial acceleration as the vials move in a circle generates large forces which are able to actually separate particles in suspension. This happens because denser particles will move to the outward section of the vial while lower density fluids will be subverted to the inner radius of the spinning centrifuge. These devices are simple but extremely effective. As such they are widely employed for dozens of applications in laboratories everywhere.
Centrifuges are available in many different sizes for many different applications. Micro-centrifuges are used for small sample sizes less than 5.0 mL and are available from manufacturers such as Beckman Coulter, and Ultracentrifuges, which can be operated at very high speeds, is available from manufacturers such as Beckman Coulter and Thermo Fisher.
Electrophoresis is the technical term for a technique that is used to separate nucleic acids, in this case varying types of RNA and DNA, using the application of an electric field on a particulate suspension containing the nucleic acids to be analyzed. An electric field generated by an anode/cathode pair is used to attract or repel nucleic acids in order to achieve the net effect of separating these nucleic acids. Gel Electrophoresis is a specific technique where the electric field is applied through a gel suspension with small pores that effectively act as a physical filer for nucleic acids of various sizes. Once these acids are isolated they can be subjected to further sequencing techniques such as those previously identified.
A few manufacturers of equipment that can perform Electrophoresis analysis include Bio-Techne, Lonza, Thermo Fisher, and Cleaver Scientific.
Automated Cell Counting
Cell Counting is a discipline within Cytometry that refers to a wide range of methods used to literally count cells in order to arrive at a medical diagnosis or evaluate treatment options. These techniques are probably most commonly employed in routine blood tests which are performed to determine things such as white blood cell counts. Manual Cell counting is literally accomplished by counting cells/cell colonies on microscope slides or Petri dishes. However, machines are now available that automate cell counting using techniques such as flow cytometry and electrical resistance techniques to count cells.
Corning and Thermo Fisher are among the manufacturers of automated cell counting equipment.
Other machines and technologies can also be found in laboratories everywhere and include the following machines.
- Laboratory Freezers
- Heat Sterilization
- Microplate Systems
- Robotic systems
- Laboratory Balances & scales
- Fume Hoods
- PH Meters
- Conductivity and Resistivity Meters
- Dissolved CO2 and O2 Meters
- Gas Analyzers
- TOC Analyzers
- Thermal Analyzers
- Shakers/Rotators and Stirrers
To learn how MISUMI can provide configurable components to various lab automation machines, visit our dedicated Medical and Lab Automation page here.