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Bioreactor Control System using LabVIEW, Single-Board RIO, and Circaflex

3-liter bioreactor featuring a Circaflex embedded control system
3-liter bioreactor featuring a Circaflex embedded control system

The Challenge

A designer and manufacturer of complex biopharmaceutical devices approached us with the need for a system to control and monitor the function of their bioreactors.

The Solution

Using our embedded control system Circaflex paired with the NI Single-Board RIO, we designed a system to control and monitor all essential bioreactor electrical, mechanical, and sensor components that enable a streamlined cell culture process.

The Story//The Cyth Process

A developer and manufacturer of self-contained bioreactor systems used for biopharmaceutical research approached us with the need for a system to control and monitor the function of their bioreactors. A bioreactor is a sealed vessel that supports the growth of cell cultures, viruses, and tissues. The bioreactor’s control system regulates all aspects of the vessel’s environment including temperature, moisture, pH level, and chemical treatments. The bioreactor’s advanced features and ability to accurately control and change these environmental factors makes it a formidable industry competitor for cell culture, virus, and tissue growth needed at research and testing laboratories.

The client’s bioreactor consists of a metal housing that contains a sealed polyurethane vessel with a coupling system used to drive its bio-agitation process. This system controls the mixing speed of the vessel’s liquid contents. This liquid agitation control allows for the coalescence of sensitive cells and provides the optimum conditions required for the cell culturing process. The bioreactor also possesses a mass flow controller which oxygenates the liquid contents with extremely high precision. The bioreactor's agitation process controls the fluid mixing coupled with the mass flow controller allowing our client to provide a premium environment for cell growth for cell and gene research development.

Bacterial sediment
Bacterial sediment

Moving left to right these images show how the bacterial sediment (in blue) is stirred by the customer's proprietary bio-agitation process, and how at speeds of 20 rpm the bacterial content is consistently mixed into the liquid content.

Our engineering team began by using the Circaflex embedded control system to build a control system capable of acquiring multiple sensor inputs and outputs while controlling devices critical to the bioreactor’s function. These sensors and devices include:

  • pH level sensors

  • Carbon and oxygen level sensors

  • Temperature sensors

  • Peristaltic pumps

  • Stepper motors

  • Mass flow (gas release) valves

  • Fluid flow control valves

Our engineering team was able to provide high-speed I/O for device control using Cyth’s Circaflex platform paired with the Single-Board RIO. NI sbRIO incorporation into the system design provides a high level of configurability for our client’s development team. The client was able to program PID control loop algorithms which continually monitor the bioreactor's agitation process with real-time adjustments. Complimenting thier developments, our team built a feedback loop architecture in LabVIEW. Working alongside the client's engineering team, we provided a self-contained board and a programming architecture that minimized development time and costs to accelerate the product’s path to market. The ease of Circaflex’s hardware configuration and LabVIEW’s software development allowed us to fast-track the build process to have an initial prototype built in weeks and a final product ready for deployment within three months.

The Circaflex control system is used for the client’s bioreactor series.

Overcoming the Obstacles

Our team’s largest obstacle was designing a circuit board for system control that could be applied to all models of the client’s bioreactor no matter the size and required I/O count The client designed four different bioreactor models which all required the same control system, so our team designed a board with the ability to scale to whatever I/O count the client’s particular model needed. For example, our client makes both a 3-liter benchtop bioreactor the size of a briefcase and an 80-liter bioreactor the size of a refrigerator. The Circaflex and NI sbRIO paired control boards remain the same, but the number required sensors varies greatly. This required, for example, an additional thermocouple module to be added to the Circaflex board to have a scalable number of channels, allowing the client to plug in as many as they required.

The client’s 80-liter bioreactor features Cyth’s scalable Circaflex control system.

Delivering the Outcome

Our engineering team designed Circaflex paired with the NI Single-Board RIO to provide a control system for a streamlined bioreactor cell culture process. By using the Circaflex platform paired with the sbRIO we were able to create a system that provided the high-speed communication and scalability our client required to control all sensor I/O and devices contained in their bioreactors. By programming the control system in LabVIEW RT and LabVIEW FPGA, the client’s device was designed to provide real-time feedback on the agitation process and the environmental variables inside the bioreactor’s vessel. Overall, by collaborating with the client’s engineering team our team was able to provide proven machine control architectures for the client's incorporation of custom algorithms quickly and reliably with accelerated path to market.

Technical Specifications

1 x Circaflex Board

1 x Client Mezzanine Board

1 x NI SingleBoard RIO – 9641

1 x Industrial PC

2 x Magnetic Door Lock Solenoid

4 x Pinch Valve

4 x DIN Rail Mounted SSR Relays (for driving high current heaters)

Circaflex Modules

4 x Stepper Drive

1 x pH Modules

1 x Carbon, Oxygen, and Nitrogen Level Sensor Modules

1 x Temperature Module

1 x Mass flow (gas release valve) Control Module

1 x Fluid flow control module


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