The last half-century has seen remarkable advancements in at-home testing, from 23andMe kits to determine your genetic ancestry to Be the Match’s mail-in mouth swabs that allow users to volunteer to donate bone marrow. These tests, in addition to making scientific insights convenient, have another thing in common: they are assembled manually.
Posted February 2021 Back to Resources
Anyone who experienced a COVID-19 test at the beginning of the pandemic knows that the only thing worse than having a 6 inch swab up your nose was having to leave their house and wait in line to get it done. The logistics of in-person testing were made much more difficult with social distancing regulations, sometimes drastically limiting the number of tests that could be performed. These limitations in turn reduced our capability of knowing how quickly the virus was spreading in our communities. The recent FDA approval of an at-home COVID-19 test kit is both a welcome advancement in our fight against the novel coronavirus, and further proof that at-home testing is on the rise.
Rapid medical diagnostic kits market size is predicted to grow to 23.04 billion USD by 2027 according to a report published by Polaris Market Research.
While self-administered COVID-19 tests are the newest development in the field, the at-home testing revolution began decades earlier. The first at-home pregnancy test was patented in 1969 and enabled women around the globe to get valuable medical information about themselves without needing to involve a medical professional.
The last half-century has seen remarkable advancements in this field, from 23andMe kits to determine your genetic ancestry to Be the Match’s mail-in mouth swabs that allow users to volunteer to donate bone marrow. These tests, in addition to making scientific insights convenient, have another thing in common: they are assembled manually.
The reason for manual assembly is because these kits often contain transparent objects such as vials, pipettes, and other smaller items that for robots to grasp without fixturing. Kitting these harder to handle items proves to be a challenge for traditional automation, although not impossible. However, what is impossible for traditional automation is the unstructured nature (e.g. bulk, loose packaging) in which these items are presented for kitting.
Items in testing kits can often change regularly. On top of constant changes, there are also more subtle variations in production that make automating this kitting process challenging. Small changes in volume of specific SKUs or changes in item color, such as the color of a vial changing from clear to blue, are too subtle for traditional automation to handle.
These slight variations may mean going back to square one and hard coding a robot to recognize and thus grasp these new items for kitting. This process would cause immense downtime and slow kit production – the only way to automate the kitting of these difficult items is with robotics that are equipped with an advanced vision system.
Vicarious has solved the complexity of kitting these items with neuroscience-inspired AI that is modeled after the human visual cortex. Our R&D is driven by challenges emerging from real-world problems and requirements, and we take inspiration from the state of the art in robotics and machine learning as well as the only generally intelligent system we know of: the human brain. Our robots can detect, handle, and kit these difficult objects in the same way a human can. This means that our robots do not require any presorting or fixturing and can insert objects into tight spaces like plastic trays or small pouches.
Kitting these difficult items like a human means that your facility will get the same flexibility as if human brains were performing the work. With Vicarious, customers are able to kit specific item configurations and instantly change from one configuration to another during the kitting process. This means more time is spent on production than retraining or recalibration.
With the added flexibility of adapting to changes in object shape and size, customers are able to optimize their workflow to suit their needs. Swapping to a new supplier with better quality or lower cost pipettes that may be a different size from what is currently being kitted is now possible with zero downtime. Less time spent on new item training means customers can spend more time innovating, allowing the easy creation of new testing kits based on market demand.
Companies across the world are joining Vicarious at the cutting edge of robotics research and design. Reap the benefits of modern automation with no strings attached.