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Drug Discovery World
Collaborative robots are redefining lab automation
By Peter Harris

The use of robots to automate high-volume repetitive tasks has been common practice going back to the early 1970s, when the German company KUKA developed and deployed the first electromechanical industrial robot.

Subsequently, the world began replacing human effort in high-volume repetitive workflows with robots to reduce cost and/or improve productivity. Today robots are both big business and a big focus of discussion. The global robotic systems market (including software peripherals and other related costs) was estimated at $26 billion in 2012, according to IFR and the global industrial robot market is estimated to reach $41 billion by 2020, according to Allied Market Research.

From automotive assembly lines to materials handling to drug discovery, industrial robot penetration has grown steadily over the last few decades, recently showing strong signs of acceleration. It took 50 years to reach the first one million installed industrial robot units but only eight years to reach the second million units. These traditional industrial robots have specific characteristics and limitations which have heavily influenced both the types of applications in which they have been used and the overall system approach to robot deployment. However, recent advances in robot technology are going to change the breadth of applications suitable for robots and alter how we think about robotic integration. For researchers in the drug discovery and development space, these advancements will open up many new possible ways of thinking through automation, delivering high productivity gains and ultimately reducing drug discovery costs...

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