7 Questions to Ask When Purchasing an Automated Liquid Handler

Learn readers’ liquid handling purchasing plans and more from our latest survey results

By Shane Downie

Automated liquid handling (ALH) systems span the range from semi-automated multichannel pipettors to room-sized systems. The industry is trending toward versatile, modular ALH systems—seemingly for every budget. Likewise, instrumentation, software, and methods have followed the trend toward greater user accessibility.

Top 7 Questions You Should Ask When Buying an Automated Liquid Handler

  1. What kind(s) of dispensing technology is used? Peristaltic pump dispensing offers low prime volumes and back flushing; microprocessor-controlled syringes have fast output and high precision. Hybrid detection systems combine both technologies in one and can even add washing functions.
  2. Is plate handling automatable? Manual plate handling can slow productivity. Automating the process with a compatible microplate stacker increases throughput with walk-away operation.
  3. Can it accommodate magnetic or plastic bead-based assays? If using bead-based assays, it 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 this specific liquid handler? This provides proof that the instrument performs as indicated.

Types of automated liquid handling systems used by survey respondents:

Stand-alone 35%
Individual benchtop workstations 26%
Self-contained multi instrument systems 17%
Don't know 14%
Other 8%

Applications for automated liquid handling systems as reported by survey respondents:

Serial dilution 31%
High-throughput screening 14%
PCR setup 13%
Plate replication 6%
Plate reformatting 4%
Cell culture 3%
Whole genome amplication 1%
Other 25%

Nearly 35% of respondents are engaged in purchasing a new automated liquid handling system. The reasons for these purchases are as follows:

Addition to existing systems, increase capacity
36%
First time purchase
20%
Replacement of an aging system
29%
Setting up a new lab
15%

Top 10 features/factors respondents look for when purchasing an automated liquid handler:

Accuracy and precision for a wide range of compatible fluids 77%
Safe sample handling - No cross-contamination 76%
Maintenance/service/availability of accessories and replacement parts 53%
Price 47%
Rapid throughput 47%
Maximum operator safety 46%
Pipetting flexibility - Pipette with 384, 96, 24, 16, 12, or 8 tips 37%
Size – small footprint 37%
Sample tracking – automated recording and sample data documentation with a choice of bar code reader options 34%
Ability to expand on instrument as requirements change 32%

For more information on liquid handlers, including useful articles and a list of manufacturers, visit www.labmanager.com/liquid-handling

See previous survey results: 

Categories: Surveys

Published In

Know The Rules Magazine Issue Cover
Know The Rules

Published: March 9, 2018

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