ID: 2550

40,000 genetic tests per day

Automated DNA extraction with Festo engineering

Dutch company Synchron Lab Automation has made a breakthrough in the extraction of plant DNA. Its new system can perform up to 40,000 genetic tests in 24 hours. Festo provided comprehensive support for the project in the form of hardware and engineering know-how.

Since its foundation in 1985, Synchron Lab Automation has become a leading provider of software and solutions for laboratory automation. The close collaboration with Festo in the design and manufacture of an automated DNA extraction system represents an important milestone in the company’s development. “We only used to focus on the concept of a solution and then had it built by a partner,” explains Derk Wilten, owner and managing director. “We’ve now launched our first inhouse designed product with engineering know-how and components from Festo.”


Identifying, transporting, extracting

The automated DNA extraction system is used by Dutch company VHL Genetics for seed treatment, but is also offered as a service to other companies. The system extracts DNA from shredded plant material. The process begins with a microwell plate holder which accommodates up to 400 plates – 200 for input and 200 for output. At the beginning of the cycle, a bar code reader scans all the microwell plates. Electric axes EGC, in combination with a semi-rotary drive DRRD and a gripper DHPS, pick up the microwell plates and place them on carriers which move through the various stations on a transport system. Coded metal micro-spheres known as magnetic beads are added to separate the DNA from the other material.


The DNA attaches itself to the magnetic beads, while the rest of the material floats up in the microwell plates. Liquid is added to and extracted from the microwell plates at several washing stations. The pipetting head is lowered by an electric slide EGSC during this process. What remains is clear DNA. The transport system feeds the DNA to the final processing step, namely DNA extraction. The pipetting head for extracting the DNA is operated using electric axes EGC in combination with an electric slide EGSL. Each plate has 96 samples. The extraction process takes 20 minutes from start to finish, and a new plate can be started every 2.5 minutes.


State of the art

The modular control system CPX-E and valve terminals VTUG with IO-Link® are used to control the system. To ensure a straightforward combination of the control unit with the electric drive, Synchron was supplied with a CPX-E used as a remote I/O system or PLC with EtherCAT® master controller and motion controller before it was even available on the market. The machine has a serial and modular design with almost no switching delays. The open platform technology also allows the system to be adapted for the purification of human and animal cells. Niels Kruize, who is responsible for Business Development at Synchron Lab Automation, is very pleased that the results of the development process have exceeded his expectations: “The collaboration provides us with tremendous added value; it is a true partnership for both sides. We discuss the use of new technologies together and the opportunities they offer.”

Festo es un actor global y una empresa familiar independiente con sede en Esslingen am Neckar (Alemania). Desde sus inicios, Festo ha marcado pautas en la tecnología de automatización industrial y en la formación técnica, contribuyendo así al desarrollo sostenible del medio ambiente, la economía y la sociedad. La empresa suministra tecnología de automatización neumática y eléctrica a 300.000 clientes de automatización de fábricas y procesos en más de 35 sectores. El sector LifeTech, con la tecnología médica y la automatización de laboratorios, es cada vez más importante. Los productos y servicios están disponibles en 176 países de todo el mundo. En todo el mundo, unos 20.000 empleados en 61 países con más de 250 sucursales generaron unas ventas de aproximadamente 2.840 millones de euros en 2020. De esta cantidad, alrededor del 8% se invierte anualmente en investigación y desarrollo. En la empresa de aprendizaje, las medidas de formación y desarrollo representan el 1,5% de la facturación. Festo Didactic SE es un proveedor líder de educación y formación técnica y ofrece a sus clientes de todo el mundo soluciones integrales de aprendizaje digital y físico en el entorno industrial.

© Festo SE & Co. KG
EGSC Synchron
An electric slide EGSC moves the pipetting head down to add liquid to the microwell plates at several washing stations.
© Festo SE & Co. KG
EGC Synchron
Electric axes EGC in combination with an electric slide EGSL position the pipetting head for DNA extraction.  
© Festo SE & Co. KG
CPX-E Synchron 2
CPX-E and valve terminals VTUG with IO-Link control the system.
© Festo SE & Co. KG
Niels Kruize
Niels Kruize, Business Development, Synchron Lab Automation.