Researchers develop blood bot for safer handling of donations

Swinburne University researchers have delivered a proof of concept system for handling donated blood bags, with the project advancing to the next stage of commercialisation.

The solution uses a collaborative robot, vision system, jigs and actuators to offer an alternative to manual handling, which poses contamination and ergonomic risks. It replaces manual folding and loading of a blood pack onto a centrifuge machine, where the blood is then separated into cellular components.

The technical challenges involved were high, the university said, as blood packs are “deformable” objects. Resulting changes in shape and geometry are “difficult for a robot or computer that is not suited to the myriad of geometries.”

“We have developed automated folding of complex soft, deformable packs and, thereby, added significant value to a vital manufacturing process for our industry partner who are planning to advance it to the next stage of commercialisation,” said Dr Shanti Krishnan, Deputy Director of Swinburne’s Factory of the Future.

The industry partner was not named in the release.

The project had been extended to improve the speed of the robot, and has been assisted through an undisclosed amount of funding from the Innovative Manufacturing CRC.

“As all processing centres have almost identical laboratory setups, the results from this project could be translated nationally. The findings could also be translated to other, similar processes involving soft deformable objects – with an impact on food, health, manufacturing and other industries,” added Krishnan.

The collaborative project was, according to the IMCRC’s Simon Dawson, “a great example as Swinburne University of Technology brings distinct expertise to the projects, helping industry partner to consider and apply new technologies to a specific problem leading to the development of an innovative solution.”

Pictures: supplied

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