ATS Showcasing New Aseptic Robotic Technology At INTERPHEX Pharmaceutical Trade Show | Automation.com

ATS Showcasing New Aseptic Robotic Technology At INTERPHEX Pharmaceutical Trade Show

March 152004
CAMBRIDGE, ON, March 15 /CNW/ - ATS Automation Tooling Systems Inc. (ATS) today announced it is showcasing a prototype of its new, ultra-clean, aseptic robot at INTERPHEX, the pharmaceutical industry's premier annual equipment exposition opening tomorrow in New York City.

The new robot technology - Vaporous Hydrogen Peroxide (VHP)-compatible robotics (VHP Robot) - is believed to be the first automated robotic solution capable of withstanding the harsh sterilization treatment required by aseptic process environments.

"The pharmaceutical industry needs VHP compatible robotics and we've been working on developing this innovative automation technology over the past year," said Klaus Woerner, ATS President and Chief Executive Officer, "we expect our VHP robot development will be completed and FDA validated by the end of calendar 2004. We expect our first sale of the VHP robot will be to a global pharmaceutical customer who is already an ATS customer. They are keenly interested in the technology and in fact they have already provided real life applications requirements to assist us during the development stages. As such, the first application for our VHP robot is expected to be in automated batch sterility testing, a slow and laborious process that is nevertheless critical in releasing every drug production lot to market."

Mr. Woerner said ATS is also targeting other applications for VHP robotics such as cell culture and harvesting for liquid biologic production, production of certain clinical trials materials, in-line high volume check-weigh operations as well as potent and toxic compound handling.

Aseptic manufacturing is a large and rapidly growing area in pharmaceuticals, with growth being driven in part by the emergence of biotechnologically derived drugs, most of which must be aseptically produced. For example, global vaccines sales alone are projected to grow 12% compounded annually over the next five years from their current level of USD $9.8 billion. The aseptic biotech drug market extends well beyond this level.

The Need for Automation in Aseptic Processes
Critical aseptic processes must undergo frequent sterilization, usually with aggressive chemicals such as vaporous hydrogen peroxide (VHP) or high temperature VHP and steam. Many aseptic processes in isolated pharmaceutical production environments are entirely manual, requiring the use of glove ports. Manual processes in such environments are notorious for their low productivity, difficult worker ergonomics, and degradation of the ultra-clean isolator environment through leaks in gloves or glove port seals. VHP-compatible robotics will reduce costs and increase throughput by allowing many of these manufacturing processes to become fully automated.

"Because of the complexity involved in production, the pharmaceutical sector lags far behind other industries in terms of manufacturing productivity," said Mr. Woerner. "Our objective is to change this by working with pharmaceutical customers to solve their specialized needs. By doing this successfully, ATS aims to become a prime supplier not only of specialized aseptic automation, but also the manufacturing solutions partner of choice for the industry's growing automation requirements."

About VHP Robotic Technology
The ATS 5-axis VHP-compatible SCARA robot at the heart of the batch sterility platform is expected to be unique because it's class 0 level of cleanliness (US Fed 209E), and because of its drug industry standard stainless steel construction. It's also characterized by a small footprint and by high speed and accuracy. As the only provider of VHP-compatible robotics, ATS expects demand for the technology to be strong with numerous different pharmaceutical applications.

This batch sterility application is expected to become ATS's second standard automation platform targeting the Pharma industry - the first being its high speed, next generation machine vision inspection platform for pharmaceutical production - and others are planned.

The technology builds on ATS's exclusive relationship with Innovative Robotics Systems Inc. (www.innovativerobotics.com) of San Jose, CA. IRSI is a specialty robot developer and supplier primarily serving the semiconductor industry. ATS acquired a perpetual technology license from, and a small equity stake in IRSI, in November 2003.

ATS at INTERPHEX 2004
ATS is located at booth No. 2043 in the Automation Controls Pavilion

Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York, NY. INTERPHEX 2004 runs from March 16th through 18th, 2004.

About ATS
ATS Automation Tooling Systems Inc. (www.atsautomation.com) is the industry's leading designer and producer of turn-key automated manufacturing and test systems, which are used primarily by multinational corporations operating in a variety of industries including: automotive, electronics, healthcare, and consumer products. The Company also makes precision components and sub-assemblies using its own custom-built manufacturing systems, process knowledge and automation technology. Through Photowatt International S.A., and Spheral Solar Power Inc., ATS is an emerging leader in the rapidly growing market for solar energy cells and modules. ATS employs approximately 3,800 people at 26 facilities in Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia-Pacific. The Company's shares are traded on The Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol ATA.

Certain forward looking statements are made in this news release, including statements regarding possible future business. Investors are cautioned that such forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, including, without limitation, continued acceptance of ATS' products, technologies, customer requirements and other risks detailed from time to time in ATS' periodic reports filed with Canadian regulatory authorities.
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