1/2014

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The rise of the microbots: JOT Automation’s opening in life science proves successful

JOT Automation Ltd. celebrated its 25th birthday in 2013. During its history, the company has established itself as the leader of testing solutions for mobile devices. Not exactly a small player with employees on four continents, JOT provides production automation and testing solutions to major ICT, electronics and automotive companies. As mobile technology becomes more laterally in-stalled and applied outside the mobile industry itself, JOT has recently announced their latest partnership.

“We’re just beginning to go public with our partnerships in life science and medical tech, the first being Tandem Diabetes Care, based in San Diego. We have participated in the manufacturing of Tandem’s t:slim® device, which is the first ever insulin pump with a touchscreen”, says Lauri Antila, Vice Chairman of Marketing and Business Development at JOT. The insulin pump was launched in fall 2013, and has already proven so successful that Tandem has ordered further micro assembly solutions from JOT.

“We’re expecting mobile phone-like volumes in life science technology and device development in the near future. Looking at mobile devices from the life science perspective, phones, tablets and medical technology devices are beginning to overlap. ICT giants have mentioned that they have a strong interest in participating in medical technology, which promises more testing solutions to us.”

Big IDeAs

Tandem Diabetes Care chose JOT because of their concept called IDeA – Intelligent Desktop Automation, which is used for assembling the containers in the touchscreen insulin pumps. Designed for mass production, the assembly line is a series of minuscule robots, saving valuable space. “Especially in medical technology, device companies are investing in production automation, as it gives the company a major competitive advantage, being small, yet effective and precise, maintaining high assembly quality while keeping up with the volume of production”, explains Antila.

The assembly line is astoundingly complex, with miniature glue tips, ultraviolet radiation points and plasma spreads, all functioning in sync – and it would fit in the meeting room we’re in. “The company actually put the assembly line on display behind a glass wall – their R&D and manufacturing site is in San Diego, where corporate space is not cheap.”

Discussing the manufacturing processes of the micro assembly line, Antila shrugs. “The volumes and the assembly procedure can be decided upon according to the customer’s wishes. Every assembly line is different, client to client. The line can be one unit or hundreds of units, or even ten units, such as Tandem’s.”

Let the good times roll

JOT’s typical choice of partner is a technology giant with a global organization, since these kinds of large corporations require a larger partnership with a global service – and JOT is a household name in those circles. However, life science offers interesting viewpoints that have affected that strategy. “In life science, there are giants, sure, but even more so, start-ups with product innovations – companies that are founded one year and going towards an IPO in a few years, with revenue growing from zero to millions in relatively short timespans. We are still focused on our key partnerships and the values they bring, but nowadays, we’re more open to taking a little risk with start-up partnerships than before.”

Regarding JOT’s future in life science, apart from product lines and testing, Antila is happily confident that their core talent is valuable. “In life science, we haven’t even seen products or applications that reach the same volume as mobile phones, and we’re doing business with several major players in that field. No one knows how mobile devices are going to change – the forecast is that there’s going to be a major trend in new wireless products and electronics, be they intelligent eyewear, contact lenses, clothing or whatever. And that’s where we are going to be, providing solutions and testing services.”