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This two-armed lab bot may one day do your blood work

The next arena where robots could soon start replacing humans is the laboratory, and the newest creation of Japan’s Yaskawa Electric Corporation will be leading the charge. The two-limbed automaton revealed in its latest patent filing has been specifically engineered to work with samples that are too risky for its biological colleagues to handle.

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The configuration is similar to the existing dual-armed Mottoman models that the company sells for use in manufacturing and packaging lines with the exception of the “hands” shown at the bottom of the illustration, which are designed to handle vials. And more specifically, the kind containing, blood samples, virus culture and other potentially unsafe biological concoctions.

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The two sets of grippers each have a small rectangular recess that is strategically measured to the size of the screw- and snap-caps most commonly employed to avoid spillage. Depending on which type is used for a particular vial, the robot will either clasp the cap and spin it off like a screwdriver or simply flip the top.

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The same range of motion that enables it to perform that task also allows Yaskawa’s bot to put a new cap back on and pass the vial between arms to reach machinery on different sides of the table. But most importantly, that will help it interact with other robots such as automated sample carriers, further reducing human involvement and thus lowering exposure risk for lab workers.

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