Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Busy busy day (Robots, FACS, cabinets and sinks)

So another one of these crazy days. So what did we have today.

* David and Ariel from Merkel Technologies came to move the FACS and HyperCyt into the new robotic room (see movie).

* Udi and Shy from NeoTec continued installing the KiNEDx robotic arm. They managed to move a plate from the Tecan to the microscope and back (see movie again).

* We had our first wet-lab group meeting in the room next to robotic room. The furnishing need some work, but the room is usable.


* Yoel, the carpenter from "Wooden Horse" (סוס עץ) brought the new storage cabinets/lockers for the corridor. He also brough cabinets for the robotic room, which made it interesting to work there for a while. The workmanship of the new cabinet was impressive.

* The plumbers came to install a water heater in small yeast preparation room. They also finished the sink in the robotic room.

* We had a regular group meeting in the CS building as well :-)

* And most importantly, Yael came to visit the lab to approve it.

And movie of some of the installation around the robot.... Note the sequence at the end where the arm moves the plate from Tecan to Microscope.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Robot is (finally) installed!

After two delays, today was finally the day. Early in the morning Udi and Arik from Neotec showed up for installation. After re-checking that the tables are flat, we set out to install the robot.

The first step was to unbox the robot from the huge shiping box.

All empty space inside the device was full of a box with various accessories. It took a while to realize that we don't have any hope of pulling it out as one box, and we resorted to removing the contents one-by-one.

Now we could start seeing the shape of the device, Tecan Evo 200, and admire it.

Next, Udi and Arik connect special handles to the robot frame.

We recruited Alon from the lab and Ayelet and set out to lift the Tecan (220kg according to Udi) onto the smallish cart that the Neotek people brought with them. 

Somewhat surprisingly, the cart held the weight, and we slowly moved the procession into the room and next to the table.

A bit of a coordinated heave, and the Tecan was on the table. Few more adjustments and it was located into place.

The curious people could now examine the details of the labels.

We then had a small unwrapping ceremony where we got a chance to remove all plastic protectors from the robot outer shell. 


Shy, who is the main software integrator showed up and joined the party. Arik set out to installing the device. This involved removing safety brackets and unlocking the  arms. It didn't take long for him to get to a stage where he set the device on a "Random Walk" mode. In this mode the robot tries moving the arms to different X/Y/Z locations to see that there are no obsticles or mechanical problems. It was fun to watch and gave a good impression of what the machine can do.

While the main Tecan was playing at random walk, Udi and Arik started assembling the movable arm. Its called Peak Robotic KiNEDx. It has a flexible gripper that can hold plates and move them from the Tecan to the microscope.

Once Udi managed to get the arm to move, we tested how far it can reach. We had to move the microscope a bit, but now the stage is in reach of the arm.
During this whole procession, Shy started working on interfacing with the external device. He had a quick success in interfacing with the microscope and in no time managed to show that he can control it from the driver he wrote. So, we are hopeful that the integration would be smooth.

And finally, the obligatory stop-motion film of the day's highlights. Given requests from the audience, I edited the sequence to be short and include the main interesting points. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Flat Out Tables

And so the Saga continues. We still don't have a robot installed. It was a relief to find it waiting in the corridor in the morning. Or as Moran said, the good news it is still there (no one took it) and the bad news is that it is still there (no one installed it).

The crew from PVPlast who were supposed to fix the tables got stuck on the climb to Jerusalem. They managed to get here by re-filling the car heating system with water. When they got here it took a while to convince them that there was an issue, and then how to solve it.

In the end, we to go through several rounds of examining the tables with a long metal ruler until I approved their work. This took three hours and by then it was clear that the robot installation is not going to go as planned.

I give you the "dance of the flat tables"

On other news, we had Ariel, a dedicated reader of the Blog, visit in person. To make sure this is not lost on the crowd here is the relevant images from the movie.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Microscope, Robotics, Tables, and a Window

So the big day has arrived. Today the robot is finally moving into our hands. Things did not turn out exactly as planned.
The day started early, with Dimitry from the Eisenberg Brothers who came in to move the microscope from the molecular lab to its new station in the robotic room.

While Dimitry was moving things, a nice guy from the communication department showed up to talk about connecting the ethernet ports in the new room. I then got a long phone call from a collaborator.

A bit later, Udi Oz from Neotec and his crew showed up. They brought the Peak Robotics arm. As they started working, Danny from the computer system showed up to talk about communications and potential place to put wireless. 

Then Michel the carpenter suddenly came in to ask which doors need safety stops. As he was talking to me the Neotec people realized there is a problem with the new tables for the robot. They were not flat, and the rail for the robot arm was not sitting properly because of that.

We started consultation as to what to do about that when the delivery truck with the robot showed. The huge robot box almost blocked the corridor. 

But since the tables are not flat, we had to move to a side area so traffic will not be jammed.

As we were doing this the aluminum profile person showed up and took the temporary window in the robotic room. Michel came in and tried to see if he can help us with the tables. In the end we decided to wait until the PVPlast team shows up and fix the issues. 

Just to get a sense of the problematic aspect here, we took pictures of a straight piece of wood as one end was touching the table, the other is seen to be far from it.

These events were squeezed into five intense hours. Just to get a sense, here is a time-lapse movie of this part of the day.

This left me a bit of time to talk some issues with Udi, grab a sandwich and go to group meeting. On returning we found out that the new window is installed.

It has integrated shades inside, between two glass panels, and so allows to close or open the window easily.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Avital is Back! (and the sink is here)

Latest news from the lab. Avital, who has been studying the last month for here MSc exam, has passed the exam with high marks and is back in the lab. We all have missed her during the last few weeks.

While we are waiting for the robot to arrive, another small unresolved issue in the lab was solved. Today the sink in the robotic room was installed. 

It arrived as a nice shiny object.

The installers cut a hole in the cabinet. I was happy that this part takes place before we have sensitive equipment in the room.

The final installation is nice. 

Now we are waiting for the faucet installation and wall ceramics.

Monday, October 18, 2010

New Office

We are still waiting for the robot. It seems that the air-delivery company had problems getting it on the planned flight, and so it is delayed. As far as I understand it landed in Israel today or will land tomorrow. We hope to see it by Thursday.

In the mean time, we finally got locks on the doors of the new part of the lab. This means that we can start using the room. One of them is a small office for myself or Ayelet. For the next few months I will be using it most of the the time. 

The office is very small 2.5m x 2.5m. But it has two big external windows with light, and a large window into the robot room. For now the furniture in the office is really minimal. I already used for a conference call to the States and for few discussions (one even involving three of us) and it was fine.

From the robotics room the office looks like that. 

The sharp of eye will note that the window between the rooms does not look finish. This is a temporary window that will be replaced with a double glazed window that can be shaded for privacy or when we want to limit the light in the robotic room.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The stage is almost set, waiting for the actors

After long period of very slow developments, the last two days saw frenetic activity. I am away on a trip to Edinburgh (to attend the International Conference on Systems Biology), and so had to hear about the developments by remote control. All the images here were taken by Assaf, serving as my remote eyes.

Yesterday bright and early (before anyone showed up to work) the nice people from PVPlast came in and start installing the work-benches for the robotic room. The design was non-trivial, but they delivered it perfectly. By 2pm they finished and left.

Today, we had the electricity contractors come in to finish the electricity installation, as there is a non-trivial amount of electric/communication outlets that are mounted on the workbenches. 

Few pictures of the work as it progressed today.

The table with the hole is going to hold the robotic-arm-on-a-rail. (The hole is for throwing out used plates.) The table next to it is the "heavy" table for the microscope. This table is not attached to any of the others to avoid vibrations. The bench next to wall is going to hold the microscope monitors and control boxes.

Here we see the tables where the liquid handling robot will sit and the FACS. The table that run in angle to them is the robotic arm table, and in the foreground we see the corner of the microscope table. The clean hood is sitting over the liquid handling table and the end of the robotic arm table, and will enclose this area with super-clean air. The long hole between the two tables will serve for cables. In the background you can see the workbench that will serve for sample preparation, and might also hold some of the equipment monitors. Here is another view of this bench and the clean hood.

Since there many devices will sit on these tables we needed to supply them with electricity and communications. Thus, there is an electricity panel below the robotic table (all along its length).

These cable come from connection boxes along the wall. Thus, there is another panel between the long arm table and the robotic table.

From there the cables go down below the microscope table and all the way to the wall. From the side this look like this.

At the other end of the microscope table the cables come from the rack into another panel. The important part of this construction is that the rack itself is "floating" below the microscope table without actually touching it (so not pass any vibrations).

On the wall the cables are distributed to the various connection boxes (each one housing cables fed from the main electricity and communication boards.

While they were here, the electricians also installed the benchtop lights that we have been waiting for for a long time. Let there be light!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Clean Tent

One of the main worries regarding the robotic setup is contamination from the environment. Since the robot works with media and open plates, such contamination can ruin many experiments. We started by thinking of housing the robot in a clean room. This however was very expensive and would require harsh operating conditions. The solution we came up with is to have the robotic room over-pressurized, so that dust and contaminants are pushed out. In addition, the robot parts that involve sterile work will be housed inside a "clean tent".

Today the tent arrived, in pieces.

The technicians quickly assembled the heavy aluminum framework (which was interesting to watch).

Then they loaded on top of it the filter units. 

Each unit filters air through a series of filters and pushes it downwards. As a result the insides of the tent are continually "washed" by very clean air and kept clean. To close off the relevant volume, the tent has plastic sheet flaps that allow access inside but keep the bulk of the clean air going down in a laminar flow.

The next week the tables and benches for the robot will be installed, and then the stage will be set for the main player.