PyLabRobot: An open-source, hardware-agnostic interface for liquid-handling robots and accessories

Rick P. Wierenga, Stefan M. Golas, Wilson Ho, Connor W. Coley, Kevin M. Esvelt. PyLabRobot: An open-source, hardware-agnostic interface for liquid-handling robots and accessories. Device, Volume 1, Issue 4 (2023)


Liquid-handling robots are often limited by proprietary interfaces that are only compatible with a single type of robot and operating system, restricting method sharing and slowing development. Here, we present PyLabRobot, an open-source, cross-platform Python interface capable of programming diverse liquid-handling robots, including Hamilton STARs and Vantages, Tecan EVOs, and Opentron OT-2s. PyLabRobot provides an interface for a universal set of commands and deck layout representations while enabling the control of diverse accessory devices. The interface can work with any liquid-handling robot capable of aspirating and dispensing precise volumes of liquid within a Cartesian coordinate system. In addition to the already integrated robots, we include guidance on integrating new liquid-handling systems and accessories. We validated the framework through unit tests and application demonstrations, including a browser-based simulator, a position calibration tool, and a path-teaching tool for complex movements. PyLabRobot provides a flexible, open, and collaborative programming environment for laboratory automation.

Many biology experiments could in theory be performed by liquid-handling robots, which can greatly increase the speed and reproducibility of research. In practice, these robots have to be programmed using inflexible and proprietary interfaces that are daunting even for automation specialists. We developed PyLabRobot, an open-source, cross-platform framework that lets researchers program their liquid-handling robots and accessory equipment using Python, the best-known programming language, and share their protocols with the community. We created a newly popular forum to support community development and protocol-sharing, and provide integrations for four different liquid-handling robots (including the popular Hamilton STAR and Tecan Freedom EVO models) and one plate reader, as well as guidance for researchers looking to create and share their own equipment integrations. In the best tradition of open-source software, we hope PyLabRobot will accelerate biological discoveries by making laboratory automation accessible to researchers who are not robot specialists or expert programmers.


Courtesy of the researchers

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