ARUP Laboratories Introduces First-of-Its-Kind, Automated Thawing and Mixing Workcell

SALT LAKE CITY, June 5, 2007- ARUP Laboratories, a national clinical and anatomic pathology reference laboratory and a leader in innovative laboratory research and development, teamed up with Motoman Inc. (West Carrollton, Ohio), a leader in robotic automation, and the University of Utah's College of Engineering to devise a one-of-a-kind automated thawing and mixing workcell.

This innovation is instrumental in improving laboratory workflow and expediting the thawing and mixing of samples as the first automated thawing and mixing workcell of clinical laboratory specimens in the world. "Adding the thawing and mixing workcell to ARUP's armamentarium of automation is the next step in our effort to build the world's most automated esoteric testing laboratory with concepts and systems that are truly unique in clinical laboratory automation," said Charles D. Hawker, PhD, ARUP's scientific director, automation and special projects.

The workcell encased in a polycarbonate safety enclosure stands approximately 6 feet 6 inches tall and includes a six-axis, robotic arm, which gathers samples as they travel across ARUP's exclusive automated transport and sorting system. The robot places the specimens in front of high-velocity, brass nozzles, designed by professor Terry Ring with the Department of Chemical and Fuels Engineering at the University of Utah's College of Engineering. With the determined pressure and flow of air required to correctly thaw the frozen specimens, each nozzle blows room-temperature air at a rate of two liters per minute, per specimen. The 760-nozzle deck expels a combined air flow of 1,520 liters per minute.

Motoman Automated Workcell

Air enters the standardized tube carriers (STCs) through a slit normally used for bar code reading, and "wraps" around each tube, thawing it from all sides. In as little as 15 to 20 minutes and without detrimental effects on any of the analytes being tested, the specimens are thawed and await the mixing step.

In the mixing step, the robot, which can hold up to ten specimens at once, utilizes pneumatic, pressure-pin cylinders that clamp tightly on the tube caps, preventing leakage. It then smoothly rotates the samples through a 270-degree pattern, allowing the samples a thorough mixing without forming air bubbles. Immediately after they are mixed, the specimens are placed back on the transport system that takes them to a sorter, which arranges the specimens by the particular tests to be performed. This revolutionary process sees a throughput of more than 1,000 specimens per hour, replacing a manual process that required nearly one and a half hours to complete.

To assure that no aerosolized, infectious-viral particles could enter the laboratory's air supply if a specimen were to spill, an exhaust hood above the workcell utilizes four large HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters to displace air from the workcell at a rate that is approximately double the rate of air dispersed through the nozzles.

"The collaboration of ARUP Laboratories with Motoman and the University of Utah's College of Engineering lead to a high quality, reliable system that further extends ARUP's leadership as the most automated reference laboratory in the United States," said Dr. Ronald L. Weiss, president and COO, ARUP.

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About ARUP Laboratories

ARUP Laboratories is a national clinical and anatomic pathology reference laboratory and an enterprise of the University of Utah and its Department of Pathology. With 2,000 employees, ARUP offers in excess of 2,000 tests and test combinations, ranging from routine screening tests to highly esoteric molecular and genetic assays, for patients throughout the country. Rather than competing with its clients for physician office business, ARUP chooses instead to support clients' existing test menus by offering highly complex and unique tests, with accompanying consultative support, to enhance their abilities to provide local and regional laboratory services. ARUP’s clients include more than half of the nation's university teaching hospitals and children's hospitals, as well as multihospital groups, major commercial laboratories, group purchasing organizations, military and government facilities, and major clinics. In addition, ARUP is a worldwide leader in innovative laboratory research and development, led by the efforts of the ARUP Institute for Clinical and Experimental Pathology®.

Motoman Inc.

One of the largest industrial robotics companies in North and South America, Motoman Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Yaskawa Electric America, a Western Hemisphere leader in motion control products (mechatronics). Our parent company, Yaskawa Electric Company, based in Kitakyushu, Japan, is a worldwide leader in mechatronics and robots.  Motoman provides robots and complete, fully integrated robotic solutions for a wide variety of medical device technologies, including assembly, packaging, welding, dispensing, and test tube/sample sorting.  Motoman robots are used in cleanrooms, clinical labs, biopharmaceutical applications, and medical packaging.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Visit Motoman's Web site at www.motoman.com. The University of Utah's College of Engineering can be found at www.coe.utah.edu.

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ARUP Contact Information:

Ronald L. Weiss, MD, MBA
President and Chief Operating Officer
(801) 584-5188