AUTOMATE 2017 CHICAGO IL
Automation: Chemistry shoots for the Moon
The resulting systems could shake up synthetic chemistry by automating not only the repetitive legwork, but also decision-making and recipe development. Cronin, a DARPA-funded chemist at the University of Glasgow, UK, describes Chemputer as a modular desktop-sized robotic synthesizer, which ‘compiles’ text-based recipes into instructions to drive laboratory automation hardware. Cronin has eight Chemputers in his lab, each costing £25,000-30,000, including all the associated chemistry kit, such as stirrers, evaporators and hotplates. Often, researchers start off small, and limit their chemistry to a simple set of starting materials. The first makes the MIDA boronates reactive by removing the protective molecular group that keeps them stable; the second gets the molecules to join together in a reaction; and the third washes away any side products to leave the purified final molecule.
The process, then known as combinatorial chemistry, involved setting up multiple parallel reactions on solid supports, filtering those reactions through cartridges and using multichannel pipettes. Today, chemists are again embracing automation to reduce the repetitive work of synthesis. One promising technology is flow chemistry, in which reactions take place in channels that have a constant flow of reactants pumped through their innards, rather than in a single vessel. Over the past decade, flow chemistry has grown from a trickle of papers in 2007 to tens of thousands being published each year, says Omar Jina, chief commercial officer at Syrris, an automation-technology company in Royston, UK, which has been selling flow chemistry set-ups since 2004. In industry, flow chemistry is used mainly for process optimization, says Seeberger.
Researchers who hope to test-drive chemistry automation can also look to Imperial’s Centre for Rapid Online Analysis of Reactions, which was officially opened in January. In 2015, when Burke reported his synthesis machine, some chemists debated whether automation would spell the end for synthetic chemistry.
Enterprise Automation Stack
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Automation: The IT leader’s guide
Automation is key to IT optimization and digital transformation. As Bedi’s experience shows, automation success is far from automatic. Show people how your automation strategy will benefit them and their jobs. Thankfully, use of automation has progressed to a point where you can learn plenty from the earlier mistakes of other people. Botching your estimate of automation results: Vipul Nagrath, global CIO at ADP, says skimping on due diligence is a key automation pitfall to avoid.
You may be able to use automation to realize peripheral benefits such as reduced compliance audit complexity, improved security posture, and fewer manual controls and processes that hamper engineering output, he says. For much more detail on these issues, see our article: 8 IT automation mistakes to avoid. Since you will hear security worries from others in your organization, it’s important to be able to articulate how your move to automation will affect your security strategy. The good news: Automation tools and their frequent partner, containers, can actually help improve your organization’s security posture. Machine learning is expected to play a significant role in the next waves of IT automation.
Scripting and automation tools keep evolving: The way people view and use scripting or automation tools is evolving with greater use. Automation opens new metrics opportunities: Automation paves the way for new ways to measure IT performance.
Definition and examples
Automation is the use of electronics and computer-controlled devices to assume control of processes. Automation encompasses many key elements, systems, and job functions in virtually all industries. Automation today exists in all functions within industry including integration, installation, procurement, maintenance, and even marketing and sales. While some traditional office workers still keep a number of these items in their desks, technology, and automation have eliminated the need for most of them. Today we go online or talk to a robot programmed with voice-recognition software.
We do most of our banking either online or by talking to robots on the phone. Not all of those jobs have disappeared because of automation. In the US, there were 1.2 million robots in factories and warehouses in 2012. The Brookings Institution said that by the end of 2016, there were 1.9 million robots in factories and warehouses. The cost differential with human workers is narrowing rapidly, to the robots’ advantage.
Moshe Vardi warns that over 50% of the world’s workforce will be unemployed within thirty years because of automation. Not only will smart robots replace humans in the workplace, they will probably out-perform us too.