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 & methods have followed the trend toward greater user accessibility.
Top 7 Questions You Should Ask When Buying an ALH System
- What kind(s) of dispensing technology is used? Peristaltic pump dispensing offers low prime volumes & back-flushing; microprocessor- controlled syringes have fast output & high precision. Hybrid detection systems combine both technologies in one & 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.
Survey respondents are currently using the following types of liquid handlers:
|Stand-alone ||79% |
|Individual benchtop workstations ||54% |
|Self-contained multi instrument systems ||31% |
|Other ||6% |
ALH is used for the following procedures in readers’ labs:
|Serial dilution ||58% |
|Plate replication ||43% |
|Plate reformatting ||42% |
|PCR setup ||40% |
|High-throughput screening ||37% |
|Cell culture ||13% |
|Array printing ||6% |
|Other ||44% |
Top ten features/factors survey respondents look for when buying an ALH:
|Maintenance / service / availability of accessories and replacement parts ||99% |
|Accuracy and precision for a wide range of compatible fluids ||98% |
|Safe sample handling — no cross-contamination ||98% |
|Price ||95% |
|Size - Small footprint ||92% |
|Rapid Throughput ||91% |
|Maximum operator safety ||85% |
|Pipetting Flexibility – Pipette with 384, 96, 24, 16, 12 or 8 tips ||84% |
|Ability to expand on instrument as requirements change ||83% |
|Sample tracking — automated recording & sample data documentation with |
a choice of bar code reader options
Respondents are currently using an ALH equipped with the following:
|Disposable tips ||88% |
|Fixed, washable ||46% |
|Sound waves that use acoustic energy to transfer liquids ||6% |
The following errors have occurred in readers’ labs that, as a result, reduced the accuracy of the results in automated liquid handling:
|Contamination of samples ||43% |
|Selection of the wrong pipetting technique ||31% |
|Sequential Dispensing Inaccuracies ||28% |
|Selection of the wrong tip type used on the ALH ||25% |
|Dilution upon dispensing ||25% |
|Other ||19% |
For more information on automated liquid handlers, including useful articles and a list of manufacturers, visit www.labmanager.com/liquid-handling
See the most recent survey results