The project aimed to automate the efficient and high-throughput processing of diagnostic testing, specifically focusing on the addition of Master mix to RT-PCR plates in a newly established automated lab.

Location: Boston, MA

Product: Automated Biotech Laboratory – Reagent Prep Subsystem

Industry: Biotech/Pharmaceutical

Timeframe: 9-10 months


The client approached Re:Build DAPR Engineering to address the complexities of automating the reagent preparation subsystem within their automated diagnostic processing line. Recognizing the need for precision and efficiency, Re:Build DAPR’s solution featured a custom-designed frame and tabletop, ensuring stability for the delicate process. The challenge of maintaining accuracy after equipment maintenance prompted the initial consideration of precision nest locating features, later adjusted to align with the client’s recalibration capabilities. Noteworthy technical feats included the development of a 3D-printed labware holder with an integrated load cell for precise master mix dispensing and a sophisticated camera system for quality control. The success of the reagent preparation machine was evident in its qualification, significantly enhancing the client’s throughput and efficiency in the diagnostic testing workflow. The adaptability of the solution has led to continued collaboration, with the repurposing of the workcells for different processes and ongoing support for the client’s evolving needs.

Challenges & Solutions

  • Precision Nest Locating. The team initially designed the machine with precision nest locating features, anticipating that if lab automation equipment underwent maintenance, the six axis robot would not require reteaching the nest position. Custom-designed features involved a pin locating into the tabletop, ensuring a +/- 30 micron positional tolerance.
  • Equipment Movement on Tabletop. Another challenge revolved around determining the optimal method to move equipment on the tabletop for precision locating. Custom baseplates, Teflon-coated for smooth movement, were designed with jacking screws. The screws were turned until the pins in the fixture dropped into the nest of the equipment, providing the required location accuracy. Once achieved, the jacking screws and blocks were removed, leaving the lab equipment in the desired location, ensuring a reliable and repeatable process.
  • Cooling System for Master mix Labware. A custom-designed cooling system was essential for maintaining the temperature of the master mix labware. A plumbing circuit was added from the chiller to the cooling jackets on the labware. Real-time temperature feedback from resistance temperature detector’s (RTD) ensured precise temperature control. This meticulous design, with careful consideration of thermal dynamics, allowed the chiller to compensate for any unintended temperature variations, ensuring the Master mix remained within the required temperature range for optimal biological processes.


The culmination of the project resulted in the successful deployment of a highly efficient and automated lab for diagnostic testing. Through careful engineering and innovative design, Re:Build DAPR Engineering significantly improved the throughput and efficiency of the reagent preparation subsystem. The automated process of peeling RT-PCR plates, adding master mix, and sealing them demonstrated increased speed and accuracy compared to manual operations. The streamlined system not only met but exceeded the client’s goals, providing a high-throughput solution that contributed to the rapid and reliable processing of diagnostic samples. The project marked a success, passing qualification, and showcased the adaptability of the solution for potential future applications and repurposing efforts.
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