ABB opened its first global healthcare research hub on the Texas Medical Center (TMC) campus, in Houston, Texas, showcasing a number of concept technologies, including a mobile YuMi robot, which will be designed to assist medical and laboratory staff with laboratory and logistics tasks in hospitals.
The dual-arm mobile YuMi will be able to sense and navigate its way around its human co-workers autonomously, while learning to find different routes from one location to another. It has the potential to undertake a wide range of repetitive and time-consuming activities, including preparation of medicines, loading and unloading centrifuges, pipetting and handling liquids and picking up and sorting test tubes.
The mobile YuMi could also be used in hospitals for a wide variety of logistics roles. YuMi may be able to dispense medicines, transport them to where they are needed in hospitals, and bring medical supplies to hospital staff and bed linen direct to patients’ bedrooms.
At TMC Innovation Institute, ABB will develop robots that are able to carry out repetitive, delicate and mundane processes, leaving highly skilled medical and laboratory staff free to undertake more valuable roles and ultimately treat more patients. ABB analysis shows that repetitive tasks could be completed up to 50 per cent faster with automation, compared to current manual processes, with the added benefit that robots can work 24 hours a day.
Other technologies showcased by ABB at the Healthcare Research Hub include YuMi robots that could aid in centrifuge tending and test tube handling systems, and an IRB 1200 robot that could execute liquid transfers in a pipetting application. All are common medical laboratory tasks that robotic automation may be able to support by combining consistent performance with a level of flexibility and continuous operation that could increase throughput and quality while minimizing costs.
TMC is the largest medical city in the world with world-class collaborative research resources, including some of the world’s leading companies and hospitals. ABB’s new 5,300 sq ft (500m2) Healthcare Hub will be housed at the TMC Innovation Institute, a state-of-the-art hub that fosters collaboration of medicine and cutting-edge technology, connecting start-ups with pioneers in academia and leading technology companies in order to accelerate the development and prototyping of breakthrough medical technology.
Robotic automation in the healthcare sector offers significant opportunity for future growth. According to internal ABB research, the global market is estimated to reach nearly 60,000 non-surgical medical robots by 2025, a fourfold increase from 2018.