Automated Transport and Sorting System
ARUP’s Automated Transport and Sorting System is designed to rapidly move specimens away from the Specimen Processing department toward other pre-analytical automation. There are actually two separate transport systems which are connected by pick and place robotic devices (see below) called binders. The first transport system is a conventional chain conveyor which moves specimen tubes in standardized transport carriers (STCs) from Specimen Processing workstations (pods) to the binders. The binders read the specimen barcodes and simultaneously transfer the tubes from the STCs to magnetic pucks which are the conveyance vehicles on the second transport system, the MagneMotion MagneMover® LITE system. ARUP’s system “binds” or links the specimen’s barcode to the unique ID of the puck that is transporting the specimen. Based on the tests ordered on the specimen the puck will then be routed to various destinations. A narrated video that shows the entire Automated Transport and Sorting System in operation can be viewed by clicking here.
Provisions were made on the system to implement as many as five high speed camera systems that will use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology (see OCR section) to identify potential mislabeled specimens. Following OCR analysis, all specimens are routed to a high speed automated sorter to be sorted for the specific ordered tests. However, many of these specimens may first be routed to one of the three automated thawing and mixing workcells, if thawing and mixing is a standard process for the specific tests ordered on the specimen.
ARUP was the first clinical lab in the world to implement the MagneMover® LITE system for specimen transport. This system utilizes a unique technology called Linear Synchronous Motors (LSM) to rapidly move magnetic pucks to specific destinations with high precision and with virtually no moving parts. In principle, LSM track segments have many small motors inside the track that are linked end-to-end. The moving pucks are repetitively attracted from one motor to the next, so that the pucks literally can “fly” down the track. The maximum speed of the MagneMover® LITE system is 2 meters per second, which is nine times faster than the speed of the conventional chain conveyor and significantly faster than the conveyors used in any other clinical laboratory automation on the market.
The decision to use a conventional chain conveyor to move specimen tubes from Specimen Processing instead of the MagneMover® LITE system was based on two reasons: (1) the availability of space - the MagneMover® LITE system is a loop system, which would have required a foot of space between all rows of processing workstations versus the 2 inches required by a single conveyor, and (2) the complexity of the software required to have empty pucks available at all of the workstations had the MagneMover® LITE system been employed. With the chain conveyor at each workstation, the specimen processors all have empty STCs available which they load as needed with processed tubes and place on the conveyor. The pick and place binders are extremely fast and transfer the specimens to pucks on the MagneMotion system at the same maximum speed of 2000 specimens per hour at which the chain conveyor could transport specimens to a binder.