System solutions for laboratory automation

Using a wide range of linear guidance systems, radial components, direct drive systems and complex bearing assemblies, The Schaeffler Group has developed a number of system solutions for laboratory automation applications

In laboratory automation, suppliers need to think in terms of providing complete system solutions. This begins with comprehensive engineering support in all stages of a product’s lifecycle, in order to create outstanding economical and technical solutions for the customer. This support should continue through product development and manufacture, including use of the latest technologies for the design, engineering, simulation, production and testing of complete laboratory automation systems.

Diagnostics devices

In a recent example, a customer required a smooth running, low displacement resistance bearing solution for a new blood-testing device. Quiet operation, low maintenance and corrosion resistance were also specified as key attributes for the compact design.

Schaeffler’s solution consisted of a four-row linear ball bearing and guideway assembly (KUVE-B) with Corrotect coating for the X-axis, as well as corrosion-resistant miniature linear guidance systems for the Y- and Z-axes. In addition, the solution incorporated a spindle bearing with semi-locating functionality. Due to comprehensive engineering support and by procuring all rolling bearings from a single source, the customer received a maintenance-free, blood-testing device with improved performance and longer service life.

Similar requirements were applied to a laboratory diagnostics device. Here, Schaeffler engineers recommended the use of linear ball bearings for the X- and Y-axes. In this case, customer benefits included enhanced performance, longer life, low maintenance requirements and minimised costs.

Analysis devices

In another customer application, as well as smooth running, low maintenance and low displacement resistance, the principal requirements for the customer’s analysis device were that it must have a high degree of positioning accuracy and repeatability. In this example, engineering support and medical technology specialists from Schaeffler developed a ready-to-fit module that consisted of four miniature linear guidance systems, two toothed racks and a mounting plate. The customer was delighted to receive a cost-effective, low-maintenance solution and was particularly satisfied with the simplified installation procedure.

In another application that involved a DNA sequencer, the customer required a direct-drive X-Y-Z (three-axis) unit with very high positioning accuracy and repeatability; smooth running; low displacement resistance; and maintenance-free operation. Schaeffler’s solution comprised a ready-to-fit direct drive for a mechatronics system with monorail guidance systems, miniature linear guidance systems, a PCB direct drive motor, stepper motors, encoder and housing. The customer benefited from Schaeffler’s comprehensive engineering support, which resulted in a direct drive solution that significantly improved the performance of the DNA sequencer.

Sample changers

Schaeffler has also developed a system solution for a laboratory sample changer. In addition to smooth running and low maintenance requirements, the customer specified that the sample changer should be compact and robust. Schaeffler’s solution therefore comprised miniature linear modules, housings and motors. Due to the decision to outsource the hardware development and production to Schaeffler, the client was able to achieve significant cost savings in R&D, Production and Purchasing.

Close collaboration

The Schaeffler Group’s global network of engineering field service centres ensures close collaboration with the customer early on in the development process. When conceiving customised components and system solutions, Schaeffler engineers rely on a range of modern CAD/CAM software tools such as ProEngineer. For bearing calculations and selection, Schaeffler has developed its own bearing calculation software program, BEARINX. This software enables detailed analyses of bearing loads and life calculations, ensuring the selection of the most appropriate bearings for the application. In the design and modeling stages, the latest methods such as Finite Element Analysis (FEA) software is used in order to optimise system solutions.

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