Laboratory automation systems. An introduction to concepts and terminology

Am J Clin Pathol. 1992 Oct;98(4 Suppl 1):S3-10.


The concept of laboratory automation has existed for years; such automation has been used primarily in nonclinical and industrial settings. The next step is to implement automation systems in the clinical laboratory. A laboratory automation system consists of robots, conveyor systems, machine vision, and computer hardware and software. Specimen movement and result reporting are based on the identification of specimens using bar coded specimens and bar coded specimen carriers. The implementation of a laboratory automation system is dependent on the presence of a laboratory information system. An interface between the laboratory information system and the laboratory automation system provides the information required to move the specimen through the laboratory. The reporting of results is dependent on the laboratory information system or manual input, depending on the type of work cell in which the results are produced. The greatest hurdle to overcome in developing and implementing a laboratory automation system is the integration of systems, including commercial laboratory instrumentation and user-defined work cells. The barriers to implementation primarily are proprietary in nature: instrument software and instrument hardware. When the instrument manufacturers realize the necessity for development of electronic and physical integration, the proliferation of laboratory automation systems will occur. Several opportunities exist for the reduction in laboratory expenses and the development of new positions, such as "robotechnologist," a staff member who would function in a manner similar to the current laboratory information systems manager. This article describes the author's concepts of laboratory automation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Automation*
  • Equipment and Supplies
  • Laboratories* / economics
  • Laboratories* / trends
  • Pathology, Clinical*
  • Terminology as Topic*