In today’s modern world, automation plays an indispensable role in our daily lives, helping us accomplish a wide array of undertakings. These can range from our simplest of daily tasks—like toasting bread and watering our plants—to the most complex of humanity’s endeavors—like flying an aircraft or sending a space probe to Mars.
Automation, is made possible through the employment of various types of control systems, which include, among other things, motion control. This sub-field of automation can be defined as the engineering discipline concerned with moving loads or parts of a machine from one position to another, and in a controlled manner. Composed of components that make this function possible, motion control systems typically have the following: a device controller, which allows the user to operate the device by creating the signals necessary for automation; an actuation component, which moves the machine parts or the loads; a drive system, which provides power to motors; and sensors, which are responsible for measuring variables that are critical to the operation of the machine.
Empowering Medicine and Healthcare with Automation
In the fields of biomedical sciences, medicine, and healthcare, automation and motion control play crucial roles in improving the efficiency—and reducing the expenses—of medical institutions and research organizations. Automation for example, enables medical researchers to perform high-throughput assays and screenings, arming them with the ability to quickly study diseases, test patients, and develop medicines. Automated medical devices, on the other hand, enable clinicians and other personnel on the care continuum to afford more efficient healthcare to people who are in need.
In this short guide, we’ll fill you in on some of the most common classes of medical devices and equipment that rely on accurate and precision motion control to be able to carry out their roles successfully.
Diagnostics and Laboratory Equipment
One of the most important areas of automation in medicine and biomedical sciences is represented by clinical diagnostics and research equipment. Devices such as diagnostic analyzers, automatic liquid handlers, and microscopes help clinicians, laboratory technicians, and scientists to efficiently study and diagnose a variety of diseases, thanks to their ability to achieve accurate positioning and high throughput—functions that are critical in the laboratory and clinical settings. Sample prep workstations and microscopes, for instance, use precision motorized linear stages for accurate pipetting and optical focusing, respectively.
Surgical Power Tools
On top of diagnostic tools, surgical tools are another class of medical equipment that see a lot of visibility in the clinical setting. Surgical power tools rely on high-performance motors and precision control to achieve optimal surgical results. These days, unlike in the past, surgeons no longer need to use manual orthopedic drills, surgical saws, arthroscopic shavers, staplers, and other equipment to perform life-saving surgeries on patients. Thankfully, these devices now have powered counterparts that are not only reliable and ergonomic but also sterilizable.
Mobility and Rehabilitation Devices
Both patients and medical personnel benefit from a wide range of robotic mobility and rehabilitation devices. For instance, powered exoskeletons can assist nurses in lifting bed-ridden patients or those who have mobility impairments. Injured and differently abled individuals, on the other hand, can also benefit from rehabilitation robotic devices that can assist in their therapeutic training and in improving their sensorimotor performance.
Whether a patient has suffered from stroke, has experienced a debilitating nervous system injury, or has developed a neuromuscular or neurobehavioral condition, the functionality of these mobility and rehabilitation robots can be altered or programmed to suit that person’s unique needs
On the bleeding edge of medical science and technology is computer-assisted surgery, which is made possible by using surgical robots. Not only were surgical robots developed to surmount the limitations of current minimally invasive surgical procedures, they were also created to help improve the breadth and scope of what surgeons can presently do.
Today, with the help of such robotic systems, surgical professionals can perform remote surgeries even on patients who are located in another part of the world. The surgeon need only to remotely control robotic arms to carry out the necessary life-saving surgical procedures.
In the future, clinicians and medical researchers will further benefit from wider adoption of automation in their areas of work. With this comes the advantages of better healthcare provision and better quality of life for patients in need.