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Time to Upgrade? - Pipettes

Liquid handling technology always improving.

Rachel Muenz

Rachel Muenz, managing editor for G2 Intelligence, can be reached at

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Pipettes. They can be found in almost every laboratory and, if you’re looking to buy one, there are many options— manual or electronic, single or multi-channel. Luckily, a few main considerations can help in deciding whether or not to buy the latest pipette technology.

First, a user should check their current pipettes to see if they are working properly and if they still fit the user’s needs. Consulting with vendors and their technicians is also helpful.

Eppendorf original, the first piston-stroke pipette.

In such cases, a user should probably send their pipettes to their vendor’s service center, says Melinda Sheehan, liquid handling product manager at Eppendorf.

“[The vendor] can supply the most updated and current replacement parts and probably the lowest cost for that particular product if you go directly to the manufacturer to have it repaired, calibrated or checked,” Sheehan says, adding the center will also provide users with a quote to determine if it’s worth it to repair the pipette or more cost-effective to buy a new one.

Eppendorf’s latest series of electronic pipettes, the Xplorer.

Despite the up-front cost, buying new means better precision, accuracy, ergonomics, programming, and usability, so users can be more productive and save on reagent costs, both Winters and Sheehan say. The newest model often includes new features that can improve performance even more.

However, if users’ current pipettes aren’t causing any ergonomic injuries, are still accurate, aren’t being used to pipette harsh solutions, and are being maintained and calibrated regularly, there is probably no need to upgrade Winters says. Or, the pipette “may be written into operating procedures so it would be difficult to change,” she adds.

Sheehan says a quick repair can also suffice.

Biohit's first pipette, the Proline E (now discontinued) was launched in 1990.

Regular pipette maintenance is important and how often it needs to be done depends on how often the pipette is used, the types of solutions being pipetted, how many people are using the pipette, and if the user’s industry is regulated, the experts say. In general, yearly calibrations are recommended.

“Generally, pipettes should be maintained and calibrated on a regular schedule,” Winters says. “This will extend the life of the instruments and significantly reduce failure rates.”

Upgrading a pipette really has only two cons, the specialists add: the up-front cost to purchase and the time it takes to adjust to the new instrument

Sartorius Biohit launched the Red Dot Award-winning Picus in 2012.“A pipette is a very personal thing,” Sheehan says. “They [users] get used to the touch and the feel of it and often there is an adjustment period of getting used to a new product.”

Options for Users with an Unlimited Budget

  • Buy the latest and greatest technology available
  • Go for an electronic pipette—the increased accuracy is worth it
  • Purchase a pipette that uses a positive displacement system, which provides the best precision and accuracy
  • If the budget is truly unlimited and the need is there, an automated system is the way to go

Options for Users with a Tight Budget

  • Ensure pipettes are checked/maintained frequently
  • Make sure to buy pipettes that are easy for users to maintain and calibrate themselves
  • Send current pipettes to a service center for a quick check up (can be done for under $20)
  • Check out the trade-in or lease programs available
  • Look into replacing several manual pipettes with one electronic one