Fully automated PCR robotic system for Covid-19 testing put into practical use in Japan

The effort to expand PCR testing for the novel coronavirus is now in full swing in Japan. To speed up the testing Kawasaki Heavy Industries has developed a fully automated PCR testing robot. After extensive testing in march, This fully automated PCR testing robot is in use at Kansai International Airport (installed in the 4F outdoor space of Terminal 1) from May. When a container with a specimen, such as saliva, is placed on a conveyor belt, a robotic arm opens the container lid, adds reagents, and the PCR test is carried out. The new system has the capacity to process up to 2,500 samples in a span of 16 hours per day. The time required to obtain results is shortened from the usual four hours or so to about 1 hour and 20 minutes.

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The PCR testing system is easily transportable as it measures including peripherals 12 meters long and 2.5 meters wide.  The system can be installed at event venues etc. KHI developed the system with Sysmex Corp., a major Japanese medical equipment maker. So far it has been installed in five different locations in Japan. The companies aim to have about 50 units in operation by next March. The risk of incidental infection spread is greatly reduced this way because human engagement is limited to actions such as placing the specimen container on the conveyor belt. There are moves overseas to require negative test certificates to enter other countries, so the demand for testing at airports and other facilities is expected to grow further.

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