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Surveys

2013 Automated Liquid Handling Survey Results

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.

Lab Manager

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

  1. 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.
  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.

Survey respondents are currently using the following types of liquid handlers:

Stand-alone79%
Individual benchtop workstations54%
Self-contained multi instrument systems31%
Other6%

ALH is used for the following procedures in readers’ labs:

Serial dilution58%
Plate replication43%
Plate reformatting42%
PCR setup40%
High-throughput screening37%
Cell culture13%
Array printing6%
Other44%

Top ten features/factors survey respondents look for when buying an ALH:

Maintenance / service / availability of accessories and replacement parts99%
Accuracy and precision for a wide range of compatible fluids98%
Safe sample handling — no cross-contamination98%
Price95%
Size - Small footprint92%
Rapid Throughput91%
Maximum operator safety85%
Pipetting Flexibility – Pipette with 384, 96, 24, 16, 12 or 8 tips84%
Ability to expand on instrument as requirements change83%
Sample tracking — automated recording & sample data documentation with
a choice of bar code reader options
79%

Respondents are currently using an ALH equipped with the following:

Disposable tips88%
Fixed, washable46%
Sound waves that use acoustic energy to transfer liquids6%

The following errors have occurred in readers’ labs that, as a result, reduced the accuracy of the results in automated liquid handling:

Contamination of samples43%
Selection of the wrong pipetting technique31%
Sequential Dispensing Inaccuracies28%
Selection of the wrong tip type used on the ALH25%
Dilution upon dispensing25%
Other19%

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

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