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
- 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.
- Is plate handling automatable? Manual plate handling can slow productivity. Automating the process with a compatible microplate stacker increases throughput with walk-away operation.
- 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.
- What is the volume range, and how many different sample vessel types may be used?
- Ask about the software—is it integrated and user-friendly? Does it allow for pre-programmed and custom protocols?
- What is the flow rate spectrum? A wide flow rate spectrum allows use with sensitive cell-based assays to viscous liquids.
- 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:
|Individual benchtop workstations||26%|
|Self-contained multi instrument systems||17%|
Applications for automated liquid handling systems as reported by survey respondents:
|Whole genome amplication||1%|
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|
|First time purchase|
|Replacement of an aging system|
|Setting up a new lab|
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%|
|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%|