HPLC is a powerful tool for analytical chemistry that enables separation, identification, and quantification of compounds present in a sample. It is suited to a wide range of applications including pharmaceutical research, food science, environmental, and forensic applications, among many others. The ongoing evolution of HPLC has led to greater speed, sensitivity, and efficiency; however, these improvements come at a substantial cost. Laboratories looking for more affordable options, especially startup labs with limited funds, should consider purchasing pre-owned HPLC systems.
There are a few important factors to consider to ensure the best pre-owned option for the lab, such as compatibility. “If you plan to pair an HPLC with an existing mass spectrometer, confirm compatibility and any firmware requirements beforehand,” says Ceylan Bilgin, director of marketing at International Equipment Trading Ltd. (IET).
It is also essential to work with a reputable reseller who will ensure equipment has been properly tested, as well as provide a warranty or guarantee with purchase. Following testing, “we sell our equipment guaranteed to meet or exceed original manufacturer’s specifications,” explains Bilgin. It is also worth inquiring about installation and networking services for a more efficient setup and to ensure appropriate configuration. “If the HPLC is purchased in conjunction with a mass spectrometer, we include installation and networking of the LC components with the mass spectrometer,” says Bilgin.'
Wondering if the column, the critical component of an HPLC system, can be purchased used? “Yes,” says Bilgin, “we have a limited number of columns available that we test with the HPLC prior to shipment. The customer should inquire regarding testing that was done and whether or not those columns meet their application needs.” Other components, such as tubing and consumables should always be purchased new as they are easily contaminated.
As for software, there are many options including original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and third-party programs. A third-party option may be appealing, however opting for OEM software can prevent some challenges in the future. “We recommend the OEM software for HPLC systems,” says Bilgin. “In the event that you have an issue that needs to be addressed, tech support may not be familiar with third-party software programs.”
The main advantage of purchasing used HPLC systems is the lower price, but in some circumstances, it is not advisable to purchase pre-owned. “If you require a specific configuration that is not available in the used market, it would be better to purchase new,” says Bilgin. “If you are purchasing the HPLC for a specific application and you are not sure if that configuration will meet your needs, you should confirm this with the original manufacturer’s technical support department,” she adds.
Pre-owned HPLC systems are a more affordable alternative to purchasing new; however, given their high degree of sophistication, it is essential to work with a reputable reseller, and ensure appropriate testing has been completed. With some additional research, including warranty and software options, as well as technical support and installation services, a used HPLC system can be a valuable addition to many labs.