Compact automation technology makes modular production of rapid testing equipment possible
The rapid testing equipment production lines made by Ginolis Ltd. in Qulunsalo, Finland have proven themselves in the market for almost a decade. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, previously delivered lines are now being converted to the Covid-19 rapid testing configuration. The compact automation technology from Beckhoff contributes significantly to the production equipment's modularity and high quality.
Since its foundation in 2010, Ginolis has offered high-quality automation solutions for the production and assembly of medical devices such as point-of-care diagnostic equipment, micro-fluid devices, insulin pumps, medication dispensation devices, and test cartridges. Rapid diagnostics have turned out to be an especially quickly growing field in health technology, as Ginolis CEO Teijo Fabritius explains: “At its core, our business involves automating the manufacture and inspection of rapid diagnostic products. Such medical consumables are currently in high demand around the world. Our high-quality automation solutions don’t just lower the production costs of these consumables. The faster and more accurate tests also simplify their handling and increase their reliability.” He is convinced that each consumer will have access to faster diagnostic tests in the future the same way instant pregnancy tests work today, which would free up valuable resources in the healthcare field and save society in general a lot of money.
Modular production lines are adaptable
All of Ginolis's production lines are modular in order to be able to offer customers custom-tailored capacities with lots of opportunities for subsequent scaling. As Teijo Fabritius explains: “Thanks to our modular approach, the customer does not need to worry about future volume requirements when he makes his investment, because to increase his capacities he only needs to add more modules. The various standard modules for things like assembly and inspection provide a huge competitive advantage since they are usually available and can ship very quickly. We have lead times of only a few months, which is very unusual in our industry.”
The individual production modules are controlled via a CX2040 embedded PC from Beckhoff that is equipped with an Intel® Core™ i7 quad-core CPU running at 2.1 GHz. The control software is TwinCAT 3 NC I. Most production lines have several hundred motion axes and hundreds of I/Os. The individual modules generally have 50 to 100 EtherCAT I/O connection points and multiple Beckhoff drive axles that are controlled via EL72xx servomotor terminals, EL70xx stepper motor terminals, and EL7411 BLDC motor terminals. The intelligent XTS transport system is used in Ginolis's high-capacity assembly lines.
PC-based control is integrated, compact and powerful
According to Teijo Fabritius, Ginolis believes in Beckhoff’s PC-based technology for several reasons: “PC-based control allows us to seamlessly integrate multiple software-based functions into the automation system. In addition, the embedded industrial PC systems are very compact and powerful. Particularly where automation components are concerned, compactness is critically important since space is usually at a premium, especially in cleanrooms. And the more functions we can integrate through software, the more compact, flexible and easily upgradeable we can make our solutions. PC-based control technology provides an outstanding platform for meeting all these requirements. In addition, Beckhoff has developed many additional products that fit well into our automation concept, such as the software-based TwinCAT Vision real-time image processing system and the compact EJ-series EtherCAT plug-in modules that speed up the installation process considerably.”
A capable automation system is also essential to ensuring the quality and reliability of the production process, says Teijo Fabritius: “A good example is the so-called marker for myocardial damage. It must be determined from a blood sample, which makes it easy to understand why getting correct results is so important. The same applies to the handling of fluids, for which Ginolis has developed a technology that ensures the super-exact dosing of antibodies.”
Teijo Fabritius believes that the rapid advances in the health sector make it essential to have a long-term partnership with the automation specialist: “Ginolis picked Beckhoff as its supplier because both companies operate worldwide and can provide the necessary support and spare parts in close customer proximity. Beckhoff is a well-known company whose products have worked well for us in previous projects. Having a long-term relationship is critically important in the health sector since all products require regulatory approval. As soon as such an approval has been granted, making any changes becomes exceedingly difficult. Accordingly, the automation components must be available for the long-term, which is something that Beckhoff is really good at.”