Agr AutoLab™ improving container testing precision and efficiency through laboratory automation

Agr International’s automated laboratory test cell, AutoLab™, provides a solution for meeting the ever increasing throughput demands on the QA team and the testing laboratory in today’s high production bottle manufacturing operations.  The Agr AutoLab provides an automated solution for either a single Agr laboratory device or up to three, tightly integrated Agr testing systems.  The AutoLab can be configured with Agr’s most popular plastic container testing devices including the Gawis® thickness and dimensional measurement system, the TL2000 Topload Tester or Combi Tester combined fill height and top load system, and the PPT3000 pressure and volume expansion testing system. These devices can be integrated individually to incorporate robotic handling or together as part of a complete automated laboratory where multiple tests are performed hands free.

The Agr AutoLab incorporates a heavy duty platform that can support up to three independent test stations.  At the core of the cell is a precision pick and place industrial robot that manages sample selection, placement of samples into the appropriate test station and the transfer of samples from one station to the next when multiple testing systems are included.  When tests on the individual sample are complete, the robot can either discard samples or return them to the sample tray for further analysis.  Test results from each testing station are compiled with data correlated by sample and consolidated in a single test report.  The rugged, compact design of this system makes it possible to locate it on the plant floor, near critical production operations, or in the traditional laboratory setting.

AutoLab operation, including overall job setup, robot, sample coordination and tracking, as well as activation and control of individual test stations, is managed by a central computer housed within the test platform.  The system incorporates a touch-panel user interface that can be positioned by the operator for convenient access for basic operational functions. A web-based Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) is also provided and can be used as a remote user interface for this system.  Connecting through a local web host, it offers the means for wireless remote management via laptop, tablet or smart phone for overall system operation, job setup and loading, tracking and data reporting.

Specialized bottle and preform trays that represent a complete mold round make it easy for operators to prepare sets of samples in advance and then load them into the system for hands-free processing. To enhance throughput, a pipeline approach is used for sample handling and testing, making it possible for concurrent operation of all testing devices.  The robotic handling system ensures that samples are moved with efficiency and precision throughout the testing process.

Unmatched testing and throughput efficiency

The AutoLab is designed to provide maximum testing throughput. In addition to organizing and consolidating critical testing operation in one compact area, the system offers a number of benefits including, walk-away operation, efficient management of samples and testing, documentation of results and, most significantly, an improvement in testing throughput of as much as 300%. In addition to increased throughput, the automated cell approach also offers significant “cost-to-operate” savings.