How an Automated Liquid Handling System Works

Popular 96- and 384-well microplate-based applications are often not ideally suited for manual pipetting methods. Although readily available in most laboratories, manual pipette use in these formats is neither efficient nor consistent.

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Problem: Popular 96- and 384-well microplate-based applications are often not ideally suited for manual pipetting methods. Although readily available in most laboratories, manual pipette use in these formats is neither efficient nor consistent. Of chief concern is the lack of reproducibility from user-to-user and plate-to-plate. Even proficient operator technique runs the risk of improper pipetting, incomplete well mixing, cross-contamination, and pulling from or dispensing into the wrong sample. Additionally, manual pipetting is time consuming, hampering throughput and increasing labor costs that could otherwise be used for data interpretation and other tasks.

Solution: Automated liquid handlers, such as the Precision™ Microplate Pipetting System from BioTek Instruments (Figure 1), offer the high reproducibility necessary for microplatebased applications. Since the process is automated, the technician is free to devote attention to data analysis and interpretation, or other laboratory tasks. Additionally, automated liquid handling systems eliminate repetitive strain injuries that lead to lost productivity and add to insurance costs.

Precision and accuracy (Figure 2) are normally ensured through the same air displacement technology found in manual pipettes. Dispensing, aspirating and mixing protocols are programmed via integrated software, eliminating technician-to-technician variability and increasing reproducibility within and between plates, and even from multiple users. Complex processes such as serial dilution, plate replication and plate-to-plate or inter-plate sample transfer may also be programmed for automated operation.

Some liquid handlers offer bulk single- and multichannel liquid dispensing in addition to the standard aspirate/dispense functions, and others offer universal capability for multiple well densities without extra hardware manipulation. In addition, third-party robotic arms or stackers may be seamlessly interfaced to the automated liquid handling system to further increase throughput.

Automated liquid handlers use the same pipette tips as manual pipettes. Some systems require specialized tips, while others are more flexible, allowing other manufacturers’ tips to be used with similar performance. It is recommended that BioTek’s pipette tips be used on the Precision Microplate Pipetting System, however, many other manufacturers’ tips and tip configurations may also be used, including sterile, non-sterile, wide-bore, aerosol barrier and low adhesion to suit many applications. Society for Biomolecular Screening (SBS)-compliant pipette tip racks fit comfortably on the deck, ensuring proper tip sealing, while those out of compliance may not fit on most automated liquid handling system decks. As with all new equipment, the instrument should be validated with the desired tips to ensure proper performance.

For more information, visit www.biotek.com

Categories: How it Works

Published In

Maximizing ROI Magazine Issue Cover
Maximizing ROI

Published: January 1, 2011

Cover Story

Maximizing ROI

By using metrics effectively, laboratory managers can better focus their R&D efforts and be more effective in improving their firms' sales and profitability. This is essential, now more than ever, given the slow recovery from the "Great Recession."