Case Studies

Automation System for Ginkgo’s COVID-19 Testing Facility

Posted in Manufacturing Automation and Intelligence, Medical and Pharmaceutical, Motion Control, PLC Programming


DMC provided our client with a comprehensive automation system for their large COVID-19 testing facility. Leveraging our MagneMotion experience, as well as our wide scope of service area expertise, DMC implemented all application development, SCADA, and PLC solutions for the turnkey system.  


In support of COVID-19 response efforts, Ginkgo Bioworks created an 18,000-square-foot coronavirus testing facility, responsible for processing tens of thousands of tests daily. To meet this growing demand for COVID testing, Gingko reached out to DMC to develop and implement an automated testing solution to replace their existing mostly manual system. 


Ginkgo Bioworks COVID Testing Facility Automated System

This large-scale project can be divided into three main components. First, DMC used our application development expertise to write multiple drivers. These drivers were responsible for integrating our customized automation system with their existing pieces of various nonstandard lab equipment. Next, DMC designed a custom SCADA system, which served as the user interface (UI) for the entire laboratory and the database infrastructure (mainly for CLIA compliance). Lastly, DMC developed and built the automation system itself, which will be the focus of this case study.

Since the facility is so massive and the testing process is very complex, the testing line needed to be as flexible as possible. Therefore, the line was divided into work cells in which a small step of the process was performed in each. To return a test result, each sample needed to pass through every cell.

Transport System

These work cells were spread throughout the facility and connecting them was a MagneMotion transport system with three work groups. The samples travelled along this system to each work cell. DMC then designed Control GuardLogix PLCs to act as Line PLCs for the transport system—i.e., responsible for routing the samples and keeping track of where they are in the testing process. We also utilized Rockwell’s independent cart technology in this system to provide a standard architecture for how samples are routed throughout the facility. With thousands of sensitive biological samples travelling about a mile from start to finish during the testing process, it was critical that we had a system robust and reliable enough to handle so much data.

In addition, DMC programmed Compact GuardLogix PLCs for each work cell to control its equipment and properly execute its testing step. All fifty line PLCs and three cell PLCs used PackML architecture, which standardized information between work cells to ensure all machines were functioning in sync with each other.

In total, this massive project included thousands of motors, hundreds of paths, hundreds of nodes, and over ten node controllers. With our MagneMotion experience and wide variety of expertise, DMC was able to provide Ginkgo with comprehensive PLC, SCADA, and application development solutions to process over 100,000 samples a day. DMC is proud to be part of Ginkgo’s effort to expand COVID testing and help put an end to this pandemic.

Learn more about DMC’s manufacturing automation expertise and contact us today to get started on your next project.  

Customer Benefits

  • Comprehensive service area expertise and work
  • Flexible system with many work cells
  • MagneMotion transport system automatically carrying samples to each work cell
  • Standard programming architecture
  • Customized SCADA system for UI and data infrastructure
  • System integration with existing lab equipment
  • System able to handle extremely high throughput (>100k samples per day)