To fight the coronavirus pandemic, Ginolis Ltd. in Qulunsalo, Finland, has converted existing rapid testing equipment lines to produce COVID-19 testing kits. Compact automation technology from Beckhoff contributes significantly to the production equipment's modularity, flexibility, and high quality.
Since its foundation in 2010, Ginolis has offered high-quality automation solutions for the production and assembly of medical devices such as point-of-care diagnostic equipment, microfluid devices, insulin pumps, medication dispensation devices, and test cartridges. Rapid diagnostics is a quickly growing field in health technology, according to Ginolis CEO Teijo Fabritius, but the need became even more urgent with the spread of COVID-19.
“At its core, our business involves automating the manufacture and inspection of rapid diagnostic products. Such medical consumables are currently in high demand around the world,” Fabritius says. “Our high-quality automation solutions don’t just lower the production costs of these consumables. The faster and more accurate tests also simplify their handling and increase their reliability.”
Modular Production Lines Adapt to COVID-19 Testing
All of Ginolis's production lines are modular, scalable, and tailored to customers’ specific requirements, which was crucial for the changeover to COVID-19 rapid testing.
“Through our modular approach, customers do not need to worry about future volume requirements when they invest, because to increase capacities, they only need to add more modules,” Fabritius says. “The various standard modules for things like assembly and inspection provide a huge competitive advantage since they are usually available and can ship very quickly. We have lead times of only a few months, which is very unusual in our industry.”
A Beckhoff CX2040 Embedded PC with a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor controls the individual production modules using TwinCAT 3 NC I software. Most production lines have several hundred axes of motion and hundreds of I/Os. The individual modules generally have 50 to 100 EtherCAT I/O connection points and multiple Beckhoff drive axes controlled via EL72xx servomotor terminals, EL70xx stepper motor terminals, and EL7411 BLDC motor terminals. The intelligent eXtended Transport System (XTS) adds high-end mechatronics technology to Ginolis's high-capacity assembly lines.
PC-Based Control is Integrated, Compact, and Powerful
“PC-based control from Beckhoff allows us to seamlessly integrate multiple software-based functions into the automation system,” Fabritius explains. “In addition, the embedded industrial PC systems are very compact and powerful. Particularly where automation components are concerned, compactness is critically important since space is usually at a premium, especially in cleanrooms. And the more functions we can integrate through software, the more compact, flexible, and easily upgradeable we can make our solutions. In addition, Beckhoff has developed many additional products that fit well into our automation concept, such as the software-based TwinCAT Vision real-time image processing system and the compact EJ-series EtherCAT plug-in modules that speed up installation considerably.”
The Beckhoff automation platform ensures the quality and reliability of the production process for Ginolis systems, especially with the dosing of antibodies or blood samples. The rapid advances in the health sector make the companies’ long-term partnership essential.
“Ginolis picked Beckhoff as its supplier because both companies operate worldwide and can provide the necessary support and spare parts in close customer proximity. Beckhoff is a well-known company whose products have worked well for us in previous projects,” Fabritius says. “Having a long-term relationship is critically important in the health sector since all products require regulatory approval. As soon as such approval has been granted, making any changes becomes exceedingly difficult. Accordingly, the automation components must be available for the long-term, and Beckhoff is really good at this.”