How to Buy Liquid Handling Technology
11 September 2017

1. Introduction

Precise and accurate delivery of samples and reagents is fundamental for many sensitive techniques employed in today’s laboratories. Liquid handling devices draw in (aspirate) a given volume of liquid from a source container and deliver (dispense) this liquid to the destination container once it has been appropriately re-positioned. The fluid being transferred, often referred to as the sample fluid, is frequently held in tips. These tips can either be permanent features of the liquid handler or disposable pieces.

PAdvancements in technology have resulted in the evolution of liquid transfer solutions, from the dispensing of sample fluid from an individual tip to large-scale automated liquid handling involving many tips, channels, robots and large workstations. Aspiration and dispensing of sample fluid is typically carried out in the microliter, milliliter and nanoliter range. However, it is also possible to dispense volumes in the picoliter range, and even femtoliter dispensing is being used, for microarray applications.

Automated liquid handling has evolved rapidly since its first use in the late 1980s and 1990s, with the need for very high throughput drug screening by the pharmaceutical industry and genomic sequencing studies.

Today, automated liquid handling systems are used within a variety of key industries, including forensics, pharmaceutical drug discovery and development, molecular biology, food and beverage, agriculture, materials science, and clinical diagnostics. Recent optimizations of liquid handling technology, often with add-on features, enable a number of different techniques to be performed in these industries, as shown in Table 1. Some of these are discussed further in the ‘Application Specific Workflows’.

Table 1. Technique Optimizations of Liquid Handling Technology
Industry Techniques
Pharmaceutical – Discovery & Development ADME-Tox Screening
Bioprocessing
Cell Based Assays
Chromatography
Compound Management
High Content Screening
High-Throughput Screening
Imaging- Fluorescence / Microscopy
Immunoassays
Mass Spectrometry
Next Generation Sequen