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Argonne National Laboratory

Developing a Rapid Prototyping Lab

Robotics have long been used in manufacturing to automate extremely complex processes reliably and rapidly. But those systems were designed to perform specific, repetitive tasks in factories that were built to accommodate robots.

In science, researchers need different tools to work different areas of a problem. They need flexibility and creativity to analyze and respond to complex results.

To unlock the potential of autonomous discovery for science, we need to research the best ways to:

  • Repurpose traditional lab spaces to incorporate robotic systems.
  • Develop open-source interfaces that allow different systems to interact and seamlessly perform scientific workflows.
  • Design systems that are flexible enough to combine different elements in new ways as an experiment progresses.

Argonne is tackling those challenges at the Rapid Prototyping Lab (RPL) — a vibrant software and robotics hub where scientists from across the laboratory collaborate, train the next-generation workforce, drive innovation and foster an open-source environment.

The RPL develops robotics software at all levels — from instrument drivers to high-level user programming APIs (application programming interfaces — which allow two applications to talk to each other).

The lab also embraces maker culture, encouraging researchers to configure new workflows, develop protocols, test programs and processes and debug systems so that they can incorporate robotics systems in working labs without disrupting ongoing research.

The RPL is essential in helping reduce the time and expense of implementing autonomous discovery and enabling rapid exploration of innovative ideas and breakthroughs across all areas of Argonne’s research.

Learn more at Rapid Prototyping Lab.