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Automated TB Specimen Handler

Client: LTS Consulting

Date: 2010

South Africa has one of the highest levels of tuberculosis (TB) in the world and the time frame allocated for processing the samples generates back logs in the system for results to be given to the doctors.

TF Design in collaboration with LTS Consulting obtained international funding to develop an enclosure that would automate a large portion of the specimen analytical process. Due to the high level of aerosol cross contamination that could arise, international health safety guidelines had to be incorporated into the design.

The use of HEPA filtered isolated suction ports were utilized at high risk de-capping and transfer stations to minimize the probability of aerosol cross-over occurring. Decontamination of the entire enclosure is also conducted at set time intervals.

Full data capturing and logging is done on the samples entering and exiting the machine for patient tractability. The whole process is monitored by sensors and controlled through a series of pneumatic cylinders. The entire automated assembly is PLC programmed and controlled by the laboratory technician through a touch sensitive user interface (HMI).

The aim of the project was to determine if the critical specimen preparation sequence could be encapsulated into one machine that would minimize high risk of cross contamination. The machine delivers a sample that has been prepared for the centrifuge and further processing. 

Evaluation of the prototype unit’s success will determine the further research and development into the field.