ABB Utilizes Industrial Robots to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing and Processing

October 22, 2020 by Sara McCaslin

Singapore has added a new automated system called RAVE to its efforts to actively combat the spread of COVID-19 through faster, more reliable test processing.

RAVE is the result of a collaboration between both public and private entities to find an automated solution to enhance the processing of COVID-19 test samples. 


Singapore’s RAVE system automates aspects of COVID-19 test sample processing to protect laboratory workers and increase throughput. Image courtesy of ABB.


RAVE and COVID-19 Testing

Hospitals and laboratory workers are utilizing RAVE, or Rapid Automated Volume Enhancer, in Singapore to automate some of the manual steps usually required in sample processing for COVID-19 testing.

In fact, two sets of RAVE and the equipment associated with them can process almost 4,000 samples a day, which represents an industry topping testing throughput.

Not only does RAVE aim to increase the speed of test specimens sampled, but it also helps protect laboratory workers from infection risks while also reducing the possibility of test contamination and the errors associated with it.


ABB IRB 910SC Robots

One of the RAVE system's key components is the ABB IRB 910SC, a tabletop four-axis SCARA robot originally designed for high speed, accurate part assembly, and picking. 

Its capabilities make it able to use in laboratory automation and have a 6 kg payload, a 160 mm x 160 mm footprint, and only 200 W of power consumption. In addition, all air lines and signal cables are housed within the robot.


A key aspect of the RAVE system are the ABB 910SC robots that can handle potentially infectious samples at high speeds and with great precision. Image courtesy of ABB.


The ABB IRB 910SC robots are responsible for repetitive tasks involved with handling COVID-19 test samples. The automated laboratory tasks aim to reduce the fatigue of lab workers, which can decrease the probability of errors in processing.


The Developers Behind RAVE

Rave was co-developed by Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s (A*STAR) Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC) and the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech).

The Diagnostics Development (DxD) Hub, which happens to be a Singapore platform hosted by A*STAR, also played a major role.

Automation industry leader ABB provided the four IRB 901 SCARA robots along with simulation and programming support during the testing phase.

Simulation included the use of ABB’s RobotStudio package was able to speed up the development and testing of RAVE by eliminating the need for major corrections or adjustments in the lab environment once it was implemented in a real-world laboratory setting.

This public-private collaboration led to the rapid development of a tool for enhancing Singapore’s testing capabilities during the current pandemic. RAVE, which was unveiled in July 2020, has met with great success, and ABB has since received an order for an additional 14 IRB 901SC robot units.

Many collaborations have sprung up in response to COVID-19, including the public-private partnership that led to RAVE. 



RAVE was designed to increase throughout of test sample processing. It was also designed to reduce human error, contamination of samples, and inherent dangers. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, more companies utilize their industrial robots to find ways to streamline testing processes.