Researchers and manufacturers looking for a little more flexibility in designing the setup of their equipment may find the answer in a system known as m:Pal.The Modular Process Automation Laboratory platform is a series of components that can be interchanged easily, allowing more time to be spent working, while reducing costs and saving time on the planning and layout of equipment.A series of modular laboratory components is designed to allow greater research and manufacturing flexibility.Investigators at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA in Stuttgart designed the system and compared it with Lego bricks, an array of children’s building blocks that can be configured into almost any arrangement. The m:Pal system can be used to scale up analytical or therapeutic processes in applications ranging from laboratory research to industrial manufacturing.The platform comes as a construction kit in which components such as pumps, incubators, dosing devices and camera modules can be slotted together in a variety of ways and put to use immediately. Each module is completely autonomous and can be operated on its own, or it can be joined with other components to form increasingly complex arrangements. All of the pieces are designed to work instantly when joined together. The system allows users to shape the scope of their task quickly by adding or subtracting pieces. It is also possible to change one or two components — instead of the entire layout — allowing a manufacturer to begin production of a new version of an existing product with minimal disruption. Manufacturers also can quickly make modifications to their production line, adding modules as throughput increases.