Hamilton Robotics in Partnership with GE Healthcare Revolutionizes Automated Biological Sample Card Punching with the easyPunch STARlet System
15 Nov 2012

Hamilton Robotics in collaboration with GE Healthcare Life Sciences introduces the easyPunch STARlet™ workstation, the first fully automated system integrating sample card punching and liquid handling into one easy workflow.

The easyPunch STARlet system, manufactured in Hamilton’s Bonaduz, Switzerland facility, seamlessly integrates punching of GE Healthcare Whatman FTATM and DMPK sample collection cards with automated sample extraction, eliminating common bottlenecks in laboratory processes. The system minimizes human error and enables high-throughput sample preparation for a variety of applications, such as forensic reference databasing as well as pre-clinical and clinical drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics (DMPK) and toxicology studies.

“Because many labs lack a fully automated workflow, thousands of samples such as blood and saliva placed on punch cards are waiting long periods to be processed for critical studies and forensic analysis,” says Stefan Mauch, Product Manager of the easyPunch STARlet system. "Until now, sample card punching for analysis preparation required tedious manual work or separate semi-automated instruments and an operator. Researchers or technicians had to be consistently precise and experienced when handling and tracking samples, or the results could be compromised.”

The easyPunch workstation is based on the Hamilton Robotics Microlab® STARlet platform and features two special modules and robotic arms for transporting and punching paper cards. The samples are monitored by powerful tracking software to eliminate any chance of sample identification errors. The entire process is tracked using imaging recognition. Hamilton’s proprietary software, based on industrial machine vision technology, provides complete control and monitoring of the punching process. The software recognizes the position and size of the card, identifies the sample by reading the barcode, and determines the punch area. The workstation also takes a picture of the target well to ensure the punch has arrived in the designated well.

Compatibility with library information management systems (LIMS) and full traceability ensure that data can be linked confidently to each sample. The modular nature of the system enables integration of other devices, such as a centrifuge and a plate sealer, thus potentially integrating the entire workflow.

“Ease of use makes this workstation an attractive solution for repetitive tasks in forensic and biopharma sample handling,” says Navjot Kaur, Product Manager at Hamilton Robotics in Reno, Nevada. “Currently technicians manually clean between samples, but the easyPunch STARlet system performs this step automatically, reducing cross-contamination. Barcode reading and imaging support full traceability and reporting of samples, both during punching and downstream processing.”

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