2015 Automated Liquid Handling System Product 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, and methods have followed the trend toward greater user accessibility.

Trevor Henderson

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 backflushing; 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 54%
Individual benchtop workstations 54%
Self-contained multi instrument systems 28%

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

Serial dilution 61%
Plate replication 39%
Plate reformatting 34%
PCR setup 30%
High-throughput screening 27%
Cell culture 22%
Whole genome amplication 14%
Array printing 7%
High-density array printing 3%
Other 20%

Nearly 30% of respondents are engaged in purchasing a new automated liquid handling system. The reasons for these purchases are as follows:

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

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

Accuracy and precision for a wide range of compatible fluids 81%
Safe sample handling - No cross-contamination 80%
Maintenance/service/availability of accessories and replacement parts 62%
Rapid throughput 49%
Price 47%
Pipetting flexibility - Pipette with 384, 96, 24, 16, 12, or 8 tips 41%
Maximum operator safety 37%
Sample tracking 34%
Size - small footprint 30%
Ability to expand on instrument as requirements change 29%

For more information on liquid handlers, including useful articles and a list of manufacturers, visit

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