As discussed in Part 1, the integration of a LIMS (laboratory information management system) with lab instruments is a sound method for improving data integrity and increasing operational efficiency of a laboratory. Part 2 will discuss two Instrument Integration Methods for STARLIMS.
Scientific Data Management System (SDMS)
The STARLIMS solution has an SDMS module that promotes instrument integration. It features the Grabber, a utility that oversees a folder for storing newly exported instrument files located on any networked computer.
The Grabber uploads each file to a repository in the SDMS. After the SDMS’ initial configuration and the creation of a training document, algorithms are applied to PDF reports generated by the instruments, the data is parsed and formatted, and the information is imported to the database of the STARLIMS.
An additional tool is ActionScript, which enables programmatic formatting, sorting, filtering, and numerous other processes.
Custom Integration Interface
An out-of-the box development library allows customizing the instrument integration interface for basic instruments, including balances and pH meters. Utilizing TCP/IP or COM protocols, integrated instruments can transmit data output. The library also features functions that allow importing documents and direct parsing from a TCP/IP or COM stream.
The XFD and pre-defined functions provided by the development library facilitates the creation of the instrument integration interface, which is capable of handling the majority of laboratory instruments. However, this approach is incapable of complex parsing of PDFs. In addition, the maintenance of instrument connection scripts will be a challenge. This approach is primarily intended for the entry of results, and it typically does not save data directly to the database.
Although TCP/IP is the standard for every networked instrument, it is not the case that all instruments feature an Ethernet port for performing this kind of transfer. In contrast, the majority of instruments are equipped with a COM port. Through the utilization of a protocol converter, COM data can be converted to TCP/IP data that can be transmitted via the network to the STARLIMS database.
Alpha Engineering LIMS Implementation
Alpha Engineering Associates, Inc. has been involved with the implementation of over 50 LIMS systems ranging in size from small, “off-the-shelf” software systems to very large, highly customized, multi-functional systems, including STARLIMS, for both governmental agencies and private enterprises. For affordable client-focused network consulting services and solutions, please call Alpha Engineering Associates today at (410) 295-9500.