Figure 5. One of the major uses of robotics is HPLC sample preparation.

Figure 6. The Benchmate by Zymark accomplishes several of the laboratory unit operations.

the capability of making dilutions of samples and do automated derivative formation. One of the largest uses of this capability is the ability to form amino acid derivatives in a serial fashion. For example, the opa derivative for amino acids is subject to decay immediately after it is formed, so these cannot be made in a batch fashion. Using one of the robotic autosamplers, it is now possible to do the derivatization in a serial fashion so each derivative is injected onto the HPLC immediately after it is formed.

When a robotic or other such automated system is chosen for a certain assay or procedure, the next logical phase involves the implementation. This phase starts with the installation and is completed when the system is integrated into the daily laboratory operations. In many of these components such an installation is straightforward. Likely an often encountered roadblock does not revolve around the hardware or the software; it involves a series of management issues such as personnel, management, and organizational support. Key questions to answer are

Do I have proven chemistry?

Do I have the correct person?

Do I have the correct application?

Do I have organizational commitment?

Do I have the right vendor?

Laboratory robotics presents an exciting opportunity to persons interested in laboratory automation. The technology is continuing to develop through evolution in laboratory and equipment design. Additionally, several organizations are actively involved in intelligent robots with feedback, knowledge engineering, and data-based systems. This article has provided an introduction to laboratory robotics and has overviewed the technology. Developments are occurring at a rapid pace; the adage "science is a moving target" certainly applies.

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