For more than 10 years, sample changing robots have been an essential tool for macromolecular crystallographers (MX) at synchrotron beamlines, allowing researchers to study 100's of samples per day1-5. With the arrival of fast, pixel array detectors on all the MX beamlines at Diamond, the data collection times have reduced considerably and the number of samples being studied per eight hour shift has more than doubled in the past five years (Fig. 1). Consequently there has been a drive to increase the capacity and efficiency of the sample changers.
Figure 1: The graph illustrates the increase in the number of samples loaded on beamlines I02, I03 and I04 from 2009 to late 2014.
Figure 2: The BART robot installed on beamline I03.
The results from the first few months of BART’s operation are very encouraging. In Run 1 (16th January to 4th March 2015), more than 4,000 samples were loaded with BART and the average exchange time was 20.3 s. This is an 8 s improvement over the previous sample changer on I03. BART is still being optimised and the exchange time for Run 2 is currently 18.3 s.
Figure 3: The machine vision system detects the lid position and sends the coordinates to the robot.
Figure 4: From left to right: Stuart Fisher (I03), James O’Hea (Controls), Ken Jones (Controls), Mark Williams (I03) and Katherine McAuley (I03).
1. Cohen, A. E., Ellis, P. J., Miller, M. D., Deacon, A. M. & Phizackerley, R. P. An automated system to mount cryo-cooled protein crystals on a synchrotron beamline, using compact sample cassettes and a small-scale robot. J. Appl. Crystallogr. 35, 720-726 (2002).
2. Pohl, E. et al. Automation of the EMBL Hamburg protein crystallography beamline BW7B. J. Synchrotron Radiat. 11, 372-377 (2004).
3. Snell, G. et al. Automated Sample Mounting and Alignment System for Biological Crystallography at a Synchrotron Source. Structure 12, 537-545 (2004).
4. Ueno, G., Hirose, R., Ida, K., Kumasaka, T. & Yamamoto, M. Sample management system for a vast amount of frozen crystals at SPring-8. J. Appl. Crystallogr. 37, 867-873 (2004).
5. Cipriani, F. et al. Automation of sample mounting for macromolecular crystallography. Acta Crystallographica Section D-Biological Crystallography 62, 1251-1259 (2006).
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