– The ‘Deft’ Digital Enabled Formulation Toolkit – IKA RCT Digital Stirrer/Hotplate

The Digital Enabled Formulation Toolset (Deft) is a scalable, laboratory digital network product to connect and integrate bench-top instruments together in chemical formulation and R&D labs https://www.appliedst.co.uk/DEFT . Aimed at the bench scientist, Deft provides the ‘information gap’ when comparing manually made bench formulations or lab methods requiring pH monitoring and has a host of additional features such as experimental design, workflow control, remote access, audit trail and Asset Management worthy of a fully digital Lab-of-the-Future program. Deft can work as a stand-alone system or as part of an existing LIMS or ELN connected infrastructure. At the heart of the system is the Deft Gateway which combines Bluetooth instrument connectivity with Wi-Fi protocol to connect the lab instruments to any secure in-house or cloud-based server network.

SiLA (Standardisation in Lab Automation) enables Lab-of-the-Future technology through free and open communication protocols and data standards. Applied Scientific Technologies (AST) have implemented the SiLA 2 communications protocol into a wide range of standard laboratory bench equipment linking them to Deft automatically allowing many bench experimental protocols and applications to be covered including balances, stirrer/shakers, pH and conductivity meters, Rheology and particle counters found in many formulation and R&D labs. The adoption of industry-leading SiLA standards helps to future proof lab equipment by enabling end-to-end integration with LIMS or local area networks with a control App for Android or iOS devices and by them to connect to each other are share data more seamlessly. www.sila-standard.com/

AST are the global specialists for SiLA 2 integration and development and the latest addition to our growing library of laboratory instruments includes a custom SiLA driver for the IKA RCT Digital Hotplate. The IKA RCT is a Hotplate / Magnetic Stirrer unit with a heating element of up to 310 Degrees Celsius and a magnetic stirrer of 50 to 1500 RPM. The IKA Hotplate has a handheld temperature probe for taking point readings for feedback during heating. The probe fits to the rear of the unit and reports the temperature continuously.

 In terms of comms for the IKA RCT, we were interested in obtaining, Element Temperature, Probe Temperature and Speed. SiLA 2 features which were implemented on the Deft Gateway created connectivity for the following:

  • Temperature Provider to handle requesting and parsing temperature probe readings
  • Temperature Controller to handle requesting and parsing heating element reading and to manage control of the heating element set point
  • Speed Controller to handle requesting and parsing magnetic stirrer readings and control
  • As the readings are continuously requested/transmitted, the IKA RCT can be used manually with the physical controls or remotely with the virtual controls on the Deft App

On the Deft App, new controls were made for handling the Temperature Controller features allowing users to remotely monitor the heating element temperature and change the set point. A new control was also made for the Temperature Provider, which let the user remotely monitor the temperature probe readings. The Speed Controller feature was mapped to the existing speed control produced for the IKA Eurostar allowing users to set the stirrer speed and monitor it’s value. All IKA EuroStar stirrers can be integrated to Deft.

Implementing SiLA 2 drivers for this technology provides many benefits such as digitalisation information capture and standard Deft benefits which include specific user experimental design and workflow integration via an Android Tablet or mobile phone App. The Tablet App GUI is intuitive and requires no formal training. The App allows many functions that are not possible when using the device alone such as capturing all communication and data digitally, allowing the device to be controlled wirelessly and automatically run multiple experiments in sequence under user control. Deft is cloud-ready to allow Asset Management, remote access and Over-The-Air updates seamlessly integrating into any digital laboratory or Lab-of-the-Future environment.

Applied Scientific Technologies (AST) is an emerging, innovative spin-out company founded in 2017 based in Stokesley, North Yorkshire. Founded by two directors from Applied Integration UK Ltd, a company celebrating its 15th working anniversary. AST are innovative specialists in laboratory robotics, digital Lab-of-the-Future connectivity and hardware integration for the chemical, pharmaceutical, physical and life science industries supporting your laboratory digitalisation journey.