For several months now, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges to medical-device manufacturers and machine builders worldwide. Their most common challenge is the need to quickly retool production lines to either make personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers and first responders, or virus test kits for people.

Qulunsalo, Finland-based machine builder Ginolis Ltd. recently met the latter problem head on, thanks to various equipment from Beckhoff Automation LLC. Compact, modular and flexible technology from the supplier enabled Ginolis to convert its production lines from ones that make rapid testing diagnostic test cartridges to those that make COVID-19 test kits.

Since its founding in 2010, Ginolis has built high-quality machines that assemble medical devices like point-of-care diagnostic units, insulin pumps, micro-fluid and medication dispensation devices, and test cartridges. Ginolis CEO Teijo Fabritius acknowledges that rapid diagnostics is a quickly growing field in health technology—but the need has become even more urgent with the spread of COVID-19.

“At its core, our business involves automating the manufacture and inspection of rapid diagnostic products,” Fabritius says. “[Such] automation doesn’t just lower the production costs of these consumables. The faster and more accurate tests also simplify their handling and increase reliability.”

All of Ginolis’s production lines are modular, scalable and tailored to customers’ specific requirements. The wide range of Beckhoff equipment Ginolis uses on its assembly lines takes advantage of these features.

For example, 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. Individual modules generally have 50 to 100 EtherCAT I/O connection points.

The Beckhoff drive axes are controlled via its EL72xx servomotor terminals, EL70xx stepper motor terminals and EL7411 BLDC motor terminals. Beckhoff’s intelligent eXtended Transport System (XTS) adds high-end mechatronics technology to Ginolis’s high-capacity lines.

Additional Beckhoff products used by Ginolis include software-based TwinCAT Vision, a real-time image processing system, and EJ-series EtherCAT plug-in modules that speed up installation.

“PC-based control allows us to seamlessly integrate multiple software-based functions into the automation system,” explains Fabritius. “Particularly where automation components are concerned, compactness is critically important since space is at a premium, especially in clean rooms. [Also], the more functions we can integrate through software, the more flexible and easily upgradeable we can make our systems.”

According to Fabritius, Ginolis initially picked Beckhoff as its supplier because both companies operate worldwide and can provide the necessary support and spare parts in close customer proximity. More importantly, Beckhoff’s automation platform ensures the quality and reliability of the production process for Ginolis systems, especially with dosing of antibodies or blood samples.

“Having a long-term relationship is critically important in the health sector since all products require regulatory approval,” notes Fabritius. “As soon as an 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.”

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