Top 7 Questions You Should Ask When Buying an Automated Liquid Handling System

1. What kind(s) of dispensing technology is used? Peristaltic pump dispensing offers low prime volumes and back-flushing; while microprocessor- controlled syringes are characterized by fast output and high precision. Hybrid detection systems combine both technologies in one compact unit, and can even add washing functions for the utmost in volume range, flexibility and precision.

2. Is the liquid handler automatable? Manual plate handling slows productivity as throughput increases. Automating the process with a compatible microplate stacker increases throughput with walk-away operation.

3. Can the liquid handler accommodate magnetic or plastic bead-based assays? If using bead-based assays, the liquid handler should be equipped with appropriate magnets or vacuum filtration for critical wash steps.

4. What is the volume range, and how many different sample vessel types may be used?

5. Ask about the software—is it integrated and user-friendly? Does it allow for pre-programmed and custom protocols?

6. What is the flow rate spectrum? A wide flow rate spectrum allows use with sensitive cell-based assays to viscous liquids.

7. What assay validation data is available for the liquid handler? Assay validation data specific for the liquid handler provides proof that the instrument performs as indicated.

In automated liquid handlers (ALHs) many customers are looking for modularity, flexibility, scalability, and upgradability. At the same time, space limitations are causing a shift from large core-facility, highthroughput screening systems to smaller, dedicated, more distributed screening within individual laboratories.

Based on our latest survey data, for our readers who currently utilize an automated liquid handling instrument or are planning to purchase one, the procedures that apply to their labs, include:

Serial dilution 18%
PCR setup 18%
Plate replication 14%
High-throughput screening 12%
Cell culture 11%
Plate reformatting 10%
Whole genome amplification 5%
Array printing 4%
High-density array printing 3%
Other 5%

Our readers currently use or plan to purchase an automated liquid handling instrument equipped with the following:

Disposable tips 57%
Fixed, washable tips with various
chemically resistant and biologically
appropriate coatings and lengths
Sound waves that use acoustic
energy to transfer liquids
Don’t know 23%
Microporous filtration 6%

The top 10 features that impact our readers’ decisions to buy automated liquid handling instruments:

  Important Not Important Don’t Know
Rapid throughput 92% 3% 5%
Size—small footprint 89% 5% 6%
Accuracy and precision
for a wide range of
compatible fluids
89% 6% 5%
Price 89% 8% 3%
Ability to expand
on instrument as
requirements change
86% 10% 4%

Recently Released Automated Liquid Handling Systems

• Provides a choice of different tubing sets
• Includes a color touch screen user interface
• Allows accurate and rapid reagent addition in volumes ranging from 0.5μl to 10ml into 6-, 12-, 24-, 48-, 96-, 384- and 1536-well plates
• Can be used as an automated multichannel pipettor or a plate washer/aspirator


Biomek FXp Liquid Handling Workstation
• Can be configured with either one or two pipetting pods
• Puts every aspect of liquid handling—including pipetting, dilution, dispensing and integration—into a single, automated system
• Includes Biomek Software and ongoing applications development
• Features choice of a 96- or 384-multichannel pipetting head, along with many other customization options

Beckman Coulter

PersonalArrayer 16
• Users can choose different modules for different printing applications
• Features automatic identification of slide/plate deck and spotting/dispensing module, and automatic fluid level sensing
• Dispense volumes are adjustable from 10 nl to 50 μl • Air pressure-driven dispensing ensures no direct contact with slide substrates, resulting in greater sample recovery and less contamination


GX-281 Dual Z-Arm
• Gives the GX-281 added functionality allowing new configurations and use of devices such as: tube grippers, bar code readers and pH probes
• Users can combine the GX-281, Dual Z-Arm and TRILUTION LH v3.0 for a complete solution
• GX-281 Dual Z and TRILUTION LH provide the capability for automatic weighing stations, dissolution, and much more


MICROLAB NIMBUS Enclosed Workstation
• Enables gripper movements and a range of pipetting capabilities for tubes and plates within a secure environment
•Accommodates either the Hamilton CO-RE (compressed O-ring expansion) 96-probe multichannel head or four independent 1 mL channels
• Small footprint requirements are met through the accommodation of pull-out storage for the PC and tip waste

Hamilton Robotics

Automated Liquid Handling Manufacturers

Apricot Designs
Aurora Biomed
Beckman Coulter
BioTek Instruments
BioTX Automation
Caliper Life Sciences
Drummond Scientific
Essen Instruments
Globe Scientific
Hamilton Robotics
Hudson Robotics
Innovadyne Technologies
Jencons Scientific
Labnet International
Molecular Devices
Rainin Instrument Company
Thermo Fisher Scientific
TriContinent Scientific
TTP LabTech
Zinsser North America