Read & Win: Practical Laboratory Automation
Made easy with AutoIt
Practical Laboratory Automation is a topic that is gaining more and more importance, as laboratories are moving towards becoming more digital and interconnected. The author of this book bridges the gap between programmer's references and theoretical books about Laboratory Automation. The approach is hands-on, giving the readers expemplary real-world problems and providing them with the necessary knowledge to solve them using AutoIt. The software used is freeware and can also be used to automate processes within the Windows OS. The programming language is similar to BASIC and can easily be learnt. The skills acquired are not limited to the use of AutoIt, but the know-how of writing scripts for automation can be used in any case with any programming language.
Interview with the author:
G.I.T.: What is your main focus in research, what is your main scientific interest?
M. Carvalho: I have two main research interests: 1) low-cost and open-source laboratory automation; 2) algal photosynthesis and respiration measured using carbon isotopes.
G.I.T.: What was the reason to write the book?
M. Carvalho:Two main reasons: 1) To give more power to laboratories regarding choice of their analytical instruments; 2) To expand the market for instrument sellers, thus giving a chance for smaller players to expand their market reach.
The prevalent rule nowadays is that instruments cannot easily communicate with each other. This leads to a situation in which the laboratory needs to buy only those machines suggested by the vendor. However, using AutoIt, the laboratory becomes free to combine instruments freely, regardless of their presumed compatibility. Thus, laboratories can buy whatever instrument they want, and use them to replace unreasonably priced standard equipment. With the advent of open-source hardware, savings can go up to 99% in some cases.
G.I.T.: What is the target audience for the book?
M. Carvalho: Scientists, students and lab.
technicians working in the natural sciences, including health and engineering as well.
G.I.T.: What knowledge is prerequisite for the book?
M. Carvalho: Basic computer operation. If you know how to use the mouse, you can learn from the book.
G.I.T.: What is the structure of the book?
M. Carvalho: The book presents introductory material about lab. automation and AutoIt, followed by several chapters arranged in order of difficulty, all focusing on the task of synchronizing lab. instruments using AutoIt. This includes synchronization over the internet (a kind of internet of things, in its general meaning). After that, some chapters cover the building of graphical interfaces to control instruments. Complementary information of emerging technologies is presented in the appendixes.
G.I.T.: What was the reason to choose AutoIt as tool?
M. Carvalho: AutoIt is perfect to enable low-cost lab. automation because it is free, easy to learn, and compatible with any modern version of the Windows Operating System.
G.I.T.: Are the skills acquired in this book transferable to other automation systems?
M. Carvalho: Yes. Any activity where automated machines can work and there is lack of compatibility between devices can benefit from the knowledge presented in the book.
G.I.T.: How do you assess the risk of automation leading to consistently wrong results?
M. Carvalho: In the same way that this is done in manual measurements: by measuring standards and blanks.
G.I.T.: Will it be necessary to submit automated protocols to the same peer review process as the procedures nowadays?
M. Carvalho: Yes, of course. The automation procedures presented in the book are just one more tool available for scientists. It does not change the basic tenets of the disciplines regarding peer-review.
Special promotion for our readers:
Use the Code GIT17 when ordering the book to receive a 30 % discount off the price.
This code is valif until 31th January 2018.
Carvalho, M. C.
Practical Laboratory Automation
Made easy with AutoIt
Also available in electronic formats
Matheus Carvalho maintains a laboratory for stable isotope measurement at Southern Cross University, Australia. He uses AutoIt daily in his routine work, and also tries to develop new, low-cost instruments for laboratory automation. He is editor of the journal HardwareX, by Elsevier, which focuses on open-source hardware for science.