Conference takeaways: SLAS 2024

The Automata team have just returned from showcasing two amazing LINQ systems at this year’s Society for Lab Automation and Screening International Conference and Exhibition.

It was another great show, and our very own US Brand Manager (and ex-application scientist) Cole Yancey is here to share his thoughts and top takeaways from the show.

SLAS is the Superbowl for lab automation scientists (and if you’re not from the US, it’s like the World Cup, and if you’re not from planet Earth… it’s like when Michael Jordan played The Monstars in Space Jam).

It’s when all the big lab automation companies bring their biggest, newest, shiniest toys to showcase to the world and is the perfect stage on which to lift the proverbial curtain and unveil game-changing technology.

And that’s exactly what happened this year.

As we waited around the block to get our registration badges and check our coats, the excitement in the air was palpable, like chewing your way through a glass of extra pulp Simply Orange organic orange juice.

The emotions I felt riding down the escalator for the first time onto the showroom floor can only be compared to running through the gates of Disneyland at opening hour. 

LEDs, robotic arms, gantries zipping from side to side. Pure bliss.

Once the dust settled, I was able to really sink my teeth into the lobster tail that is SLAS. I set foot on a quest to find the newest, best, simplest, easiest-to-use automation tech on the floor.

Here’s what I found.

1. The automation landscape is shifting from big to small

We’re seeing smaller, more dedicated instruments than ever before. The days of the all-in-one automation platform seem to be dying.

By implementing smaller systems, labs have more control, no need to wait weeks for service technicians, and no worries about difficult scripting or proprietary syntax. Just click go.

2. Automation integration is more necessary than ever

That being said, even though smaller, more accessible systems are taking the market by storm, there’s still a need for full-scale automation.

The need to piece together all of these systems is as glaring as I’ve ever seen.

A thumbnail for the video 'What is open, integrated automation?'

Integratable automation is the automation landscape of the future, but if no one steps up to the plate to be that integrator, we’re gonna have a bad time.

3. Software needs to catch up

Listen. We’re tired. We’re tired of learning new software. We’re tired of reworking the code. We’re tired of ‘it worked when I tried it yesterday’. We’re tired of code that promises more than it can handle. We’re tired of software that has endless lists of properties in a single drop-down menu. 

The next phase of software that drives the automation world will be easily adaptable, easily serviced, and easily learned. It needs to be in the cloud. It needs to be something that makes me excited. And the majority of software out there looks like it was written on a PC running Windows ME (yes, I went there).

I’m hoping to see the software landscape keep up with the hardware landscape next year.

4. People are having more fun

I love coming to SLAS for the robotics, the software, and the shiny new toys. But more importantly, I’m there to have fun (we sprinkled a little bit of fun at our booth this year with the PF400 claw machine game). 

SLAS isn’t just about robots; it’s about building a community of like-minded engineers who want to change the way we think about lab work. There seemed to be a dozen social events to choose from on any given night.

Oh, and it’s about getting your sausage egg and cheese bagel fix every morning. Thanks, J Pace & Son.

See you again next year?


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