The COVID-19 pandemic has renewed and expanded interest in non-surgical healthcare robots worldwide. A growing number of hospitals and healthcare providers is realizing that robots can offer significant improvements in the delivery of care, laboratory efficiency, and rehabilitation, as seen in the examples below.
The novel coronavirus has highlighted the global shortage of skilled medical staffers. In combination with sometimes laborious and slow laboratory test processes, it can limit access to life-saving treatments.
ABB Research Hub Demonstrates Future of Care
In response to the talent shortage and laborious processes, biopharmaceutical and testing laboratories are turning to automation to improve productivity, safety, and consistency. In turn, higher-quality, more flexible care can enhance patient outcomes. Major nonsurgical robotics suppliers have recognized this market.
One example is Swiss-Swedish multinational ABB Robotics, which last year opened a global research hub at the Texas Medical Center in Houston. The 5,300-sq.-ft. (500m2) facility includes an automation laboratory and robot training facilities, as well as meeting spaces for co-developing solutions with innovation partners.
ABB views the new unit as the first “global robotics for healthcare research hub,” according to Jose-Manuel Collados, healthcare solutions business line manager at ABB Robotics. A dedicated on-site ABB research team is working alongside medical staffers, scientists, engineers, researchers, and investors from local hospitals, blue-chip technology companies, and start-ups on the TMC campus. They are developing nonsurgical medical robotics systems, including logistics and next-generation automated laboratory technologies.
“All the demos are concepts that ABB will work with the medical community to refine, with the goal to develop robotic systems that are able to carry out repetitive, delicate and mundane processes, leaving highly skilled medical and laboratory staff free to undertake more valuable roles and ultimately treat more patients,” Collados said.
Existing demonstrations include a liquid handling or pipetting station, featuring an IRB 1200 6-axis articulated arm robot, and a centrifuge loading and unloading system, featuring an IRB 14050 single-arm YuMi robot.