Case Studies

Automation System for Ginkgo’s Latest Testing Facility

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


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, Ginkgo reached out to DMC to develop and implement an automated testing solution to replace their existing mostly manual system. 


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

We made sure to program our automation system with an expandable and modular framework in mind. Therefore, the system can be easily modified in the future to flexibly accommodate other processes with less engineering impact—making this a facility that can grow with our client. 


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 Ignition 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 traveling 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.

Due to the nature of certain lab operations, the system was separated between two laboratory rooms. DMC connected the rooms through an automated MagneMotion elevator to convey movers from one area to the other. The custom-designed elevator featured independent, synchronous Allen Bradley servos to seamlessly connect different levels of MagneMotion track.  

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 have been part of Ginkgo’s effort to expand COVID testing and help develop a sequencing facility that can be used in many different ways for years to come. 

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 Ignition SCADA system for UI and data infrastructure
  • System integration with existing lab equipment
  • System able to handle extremely high throughput (>100k samples per day)